tv After Words CSPAN May 26, 2014 9:30am-10:34am EDT
this program is about an hour. >> host: we're joined by cal thomas, his new book, what works, common sense solutions for a strong america. forward by sean hannity. that tells you a lot about this book, cal. >> guest: sean is a good friend and harpercollins publishing the book thought he would be a very good person to write the forward. i was happy he did so. nancy pelosi was not available. so i was glad to have his forward. he did a good job. >> host: this is intended for a conservative audience? >> guest: not necessarily. i think solving problems in america are not conservative, liberal, republican or democrat. we have severe challenges, juan, faces everybody regardless of their political background or persuasion. >> host: if you have sean hannity, i believe sean is quite popular figure among hard-line
conservatives. >> guest: sure he is. we try to reach out in this book. naturally i think conservative ideas provide best solutions to help america. if a liberal comes up with an idea and proves itself and lives up to stated objectives i'm for it. i'm for social security and medicare and all these programs mostly created in liberal democrat administration but i want to take a look at them to see if they need to be updated for a modern age and improved. if they are not working we need to revise them or get rid of them. >> host: in fact the thesis of this book, i will come back to the idea of thesis because it is one you play with in this book, the idea what actually works. and what do we know that worked in the past. common sense solutions from the past but not not only from the political realm but come from your deep faith. >> guest: there is a verse in
the elisesy as sees that says there is nothing new under the sun. everything you've done before has been done before. i'm not talking about living in the past, but look to the past and updating it as necessary and moving forward. if you go to another country for the first time you usually get a guidebook or google paris, france, to find out where the best hotels are, best restaurants, places to be avoided. these are people who have gone before us to scope out these cities and to recommend the best places for us. we have the founders of our country who understood human nature as at least as well as preachers of their day and they create ad constitution that established boundaries for government but unlimited life, liberty for its citizens. i believe that has gotten out of whack. we have exceeded those boundaries, those constitutional boundaries, and that's why we have some challenges and problems we have today. >> host: in previous books you had to remind readers you were saying disengage from public life and the public square.
>> guest: no. >> host: people might get that perception on emphasis, simply focus on the individual capacity, and individual responsibility. look away from government. don't look to government to meet your needs. look to the individual and look to god. >> guest: yes, i think that is where it all begins and the founders certainly saw power delegated from the people to the government, not government overpowering us and that's why government has grown so book and dysfunctional. i don't think there is anybody, including the biggest liberal who thinks everything is working well and we ought to just keep pouring more money into it and growing government ever bigger. thomas sowell, the great writer and a friend has written, i have this card like bob dole carries 10th amendment in his pocket. he said much of the social history of the western world over the past three decades involved replacing what worked with what sounded good. now our friend bock beckel who is on "the five" on fox and i
co-wrote this beak and do a column for "usa today" called common ground, acknowledges that many of the social programs were begun in good faith in the lyndon johnson administration. the so-called great society, but he acknowledges now that we didn't take into consideration human nature. giving people a check that providing women with checks when they have babies out of wedlock was not only not good for them, it wasn't good for the country. we moved along way from john kennedy's great inaugural admonition, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your count criminal. >> host: you think people should be engaged with government and politics? >> guest: absolutely are or i wouldn't be writing my syndicated column last 30 years. you shouldn't expect more out of government than it can deliver and less out of yourself you can deliver. things like character, virtue, integrity can not be instilled by government. those are moral and spiritual
issues, like table manners. you have to be taught not to interrupt adults at table. when i was growing up, not to mix your peas with your mashed potatoes, eat them with a knife because it might be easier or with a spoon, you have to be taught certain things. these manners, conducting yourself with a child these are all things that have to be taught. personal responsibility and integrity, looking out for yourself, looking to government as a last resort, not a first resource is what will improve any life and improve our country. >> host: but somehow i get the impression that you think liberals are people who in fact be overly reliant and government and don't have some of these virtues that you just described, personal responsiblity, wanting to work, wanting to succeed in america, wanting to contribute is that right? >> guest: i know many liberals, including yourself if you so self-identify who have these character qualities of the problem is so many of my liberal
friends even though they may have those character qualities to look to government to repair what is wrong with people who don't have those character qualities. the stable family is the best guaranty of a stable home and people being able to take care of themselves. we know this. judith waller stein, the person who i quote in the book, late psychologist, she studied effects of divorce. she studyied them for 25 years. many people survive and many don't. these are things that i explore in the book. if it is liberal idea, and works and promotes the general idea i'm for it. i don't say just because it is a liberal or conservative idea we shouldn't -- >> host: you write in the book. president obama you would describe him as a liberal. >> guest: no question. >> host: he took advantage of human instinct for envy and greed in order to get elected.
>> guest: yeah. i think unholy trinity is envy, greed and entitlement and think we see that in his constant statements about income inequality, his running down of large corporations and businesses who employ an awful lot of people who themselves pay an awful lot of taxes instead of building people up. calvin coolidge once said you don't improve the weak by tearing down the strong. i want more people to be rich. i want more people to be independent. i want more families to be stable. all of these things i'm for it. who could be against that? but the president is out there and a lot of democrats frankly are out there constantly bashing success. penalizing success. subsidizing failure and what you penalize you get less of and what you subsidize you get more of. >> host: it is interesting, you have a background having worked for the moral majority, jerry fallwell. >> guest: five years. >> host: you talk about joshua
at the white house president's spiritual advisor and head of the office of faith and public service. i might be misquoting the exact title. he has written a book and he talks about how the president reads daily meditations and scripture and talks about other people in the city, washington, d.c. and federal government who do the same. >> guest: yes. >> host: you say dubois is off when he comes to his message because what he talks about the idea that government should care for people who are in need as opposed to individuals. you make it seem as if he is saying, god wants us to have compassion and therefore dubois, obama and liberals think, oh, that means government should be compassionate and you're saying no. you're saying -- >> guest: i'm saying government again ought to be last resort, not first resource. government can become addictive like a drug. you repie on government check rather than yourself. britain, i spend a lot of time in the u.k., i go three or four
times. "daily mail" did a story on three generation of people, people who never worked, been on their version of welfare, public assistance. not only they never worked they didn't expect to have a job. when they were told by david cameron's administration that they should start looking for work, they were offended. now that is the kind of at diction, not in everybody but in too many people that government brings. and so, you know, i don't, i don't question the president's faith. that is not my business but i do think in certain areas there ought to be connection, if he reads the scriptures every day about human life, about marriage, about, you know you can disagree and be a christian on taxes and defense budget and still not be in danger of going to hell but i think there are certain basic things that if you are a serious believer, orthodox jew, a serious christian, that scripture teaches that ought to carry over into your public policy. mario cuomo, governor of new york, had this speech a
number of years ago at notre dame. he caught himself in a trap, where he said i accept my church's teaching when it comes to the death penalty for convicted murderers but he doesn't accept it when it comes to abortion for the innocent unborn. i find that to be an incredible inconsistency. >> host: of course many people on the right are for the death penalty. >> guest: yes. >> host: even as though oppose abortion. so they too are caught in this trap. >> guest: sometimes. the difference when you have a convicted murderer, somebody taken life of another person that is whole life different morally from a unborn innocent never taken a breath to life. >> host: this conversation can go on. i'm sure planned parenthood people would if they were present, talk about life of living woman being important. let me ask you going back to president obama as let's say the quintessential or prototype of a liberal in your book, your point is that government can be
compassionate you really don't want it to be compassionate. you want to focus on what works. therefore you're talking about individuals having a responsibility or, i guess the sort of if they are christian, jewish, muslim, whatever their belief, having a sense they should be compassionate. but it is up to the individual, not up to government to take care of the poor? host. >> guest: let me go back to another book written by newt gingrich when he was speak of the house handed out to congress. it was called the tragedy of american compassion. he went back again in history and looked at the major religious institutions, the jewish, the christian groups, who cared for the poor as a first responsibility but in their caring for the poor, they required some kind of a response. in other words, if you were poor because you were a drug addict or alcoholic, you had to enter a program to get rid of your addiction and they were going to help you. but we'll not sustain you in
your bad lifestyle choices. if you were having constantly babies out of wedlock, with no husband, no father in the home, we'll not send you a check to continue to do that. we'll help you with those kids because it wasn't their fault but we're not going to allow to you continue to have kids out of wedlock and send you a check. the whole point of the jewish and christian institutions at the time was to reform these people so they would lead a better life that would be better in the end for themselves. they have been replaced, they have retreated to the sidelines by government. and it has become a perversion of the 23rd psalm. the government is my keeper, i shall not wont. i will walk into the shadow of poverty, the health and human services is comforting with me ebt cards. >> host: it is interesting in looking at this you talk about expansion of entitlement society, something that is republican refrain. i think to myself as reading there is no reference to the fact we went through this horrible recession, really, people now call it the great
recession in reference to the great depression. and, as a consequence of that not only has there been more reliance on the public safety net, including entitlements but we've done things like bail out the rich. >> guest: i agree with that, juan. i'm all for a safety net. i'm against a hammock. pell pell said if you give democrats power again we'll drain the swamp. they got the power back and instead she built a hot tub. i don't think government is the first resource. we'll look at the recession. what was the primary reason for the recession? government was spending too much. it allowed big companies like gm and others, because of the union pressure to ratchet up the benefits and entitlements that they had no hope in paying because of what the union pressure and the threats of strikes. and so when you got to a point where gm, let's take one example, could no longer afford based on how many cars they were selling, to pay out these
benefits, a crisis ensued. same with the treshdid i department, print more money, print more money, never come to the point where you tell people, we can't do this anymore. it is like the college student who goes off to college and he or she is on a budget and blow it in wild living on the first weekend, there at fraternity parties or sorority parties and call mom and dad with hangover on monday, i'm out of money i'm poor. you're a fool because you're indulging in behavior that is not in their best interest and what our federal government has done for too many years. >> host: i don't think that is right, cal. as i understand the cause of great recession the fact we had a housing bubble broke. secondly being people on wall street were engaging in high-risk manuevers, investment instruments that proved to be faulty and collapsed and caused wall street to implode. >> guest: i agree with both of that. take fannie and freddie as an example since you brought that
up. why did the housing bunch occurred and explode? because presidents of several administrations over both parties wanted to get up under my administration more people owned their own homes than ever before. that is very worthy goal. but if you're handing out money to people with bad credit and who have income levels that can not sustain after these ballooned mortgages, after seven years come up and reset and they can't afford it, that is the problem. too many people came to expect that they should be able to live in a nice big house when they didn't have the income to scene it. so part of this is political problem and part of it is a moral problem and part of it is an economic problem. those three things, you're right about wall street as well. you're absolutely right. anybody saw the hbo film, i can't remember the name of it now that portrayed all of this, everybody was living beyond their means. everybody was greedy. everybody wanted to make more and more money. and everybody was willing to cut whatever corners in order to do so. yes, this isn't just a left-right, republican-democrat
thing. as they used to say in world war two, we're all in this together and we all have a certain amount of culpability for what happened. >> host: the narrative you presented initially was about government overspending, individual making bad decisions. in fact what you see if you look at the housing market, the housing industry and what happened there and you look at what, you know, we know happened on wall street, it seems to me that you have a lot of very wealthy people and people who were acting as lone wolves, individuals, i'm out for myself, i'll give to charity but i'm going to make a lot of money, a lot of that very self-obsessed behavior hut the country. >> guest: hurt the country because the government bailed out aig and some of these other -- i would have let them collapse. this is one of the problems, juan. it is not just indulging and subsidizing the poor. it is indulging and subsidizing the rich. >> host: i don't see that in
this book. >> guest: i don't say everything and editor took a lot out of the book. i say that in my columns in the about the bush generation. one of the last interviews president george w. bush did with me when he left office and i said i stuck to my principles. what about bailing out aig and, how is that sticking to your principles, all this government money. he said what you would have done? i said i would have stuck with my principles. failure is great teacher. i failed at things. i have been fired. i one time had to go down to the unemployment office when it was 26 weeks and not 99 weeks it is now, for couple weeks to get unemployment check. failure is great teacher for those who will learn from it. the best thing that could have happened to wall street. best thing that could have happened in gm for my view for them to have failed and restructure under the bankruptcy law, to re-establish themselves not get a government handout. >> host: you understand what wall street implodes impacting
pensions. >> guest: me too. >> host: 401(k)s, entire financial structure of america can would have an can cratered, you understand that? people in the congress and bush administration, good republicans as well as obama administration were told, we're all in a financial calamity. we as an american people have to come together to resolve this. >> guest: juan, here is one of the problems why things don't work in washington. on left you have trial lawyers and other groups that send lots of money to democratic politicians. on right, republicans, you've got wall street, you've got big corporations who send a lot of money to politicians. when the objective is, is only get reelected as it so often is with something like 90% something re-election rate in this town, if that is the objective instead of doing business for the people, you will have dysfunctional, non-working government. i've become a political environmentalist, juan. i believe in recycling trash and politicians for the same reason, because each left in one place too long begins to emit a foul
smell. there is disease in this town. you come with high motives and best exthicks. doesn't take long before you get corrupted. get them out before they catch it. >> host: most americans agree with you. "wall street journal" poll recently said 54% of the americans throw all the bums out. >> guest: don't reelect them then. >> host: that is not reality. but you speak about term limits in this book, what works, common sense solutions for a strong america, when it comes to basis of the financial structure, the government taxes, what you say is, what has worked is always low taxes because according to cal thomas, gospel according to cal, what happens is that if you lower taxes it results in more receipts for the government. in fact the government gets more money. but what about the contrary point which would be, that well, you know what? taxes are pretty low right now under the obama administration. taxes were low under clinton
administration. taxes were low under the bush administration. >> guest: and reagan administration. it is combination. it is not just the taxes, it is the spending. that is what got us out of whack here. so you have got, even when the republicans are in office, even when they hold all three branches of government, juan, the spending continues to increase. maybe a little less than when the democrats are in office but let's go back to woodrow wilson and world war i, okay? right after world war i, the taxes were finally cut. we had the roaring '20s. there were other problems that led not great depression. i understand that, yes of course, but coming out of that, we get to 1960 and john kennedy and his famous detroit economic club speech about cutting taxes. there was a rush of new revenue because people were taking their money out of safe havens and bringing it back into the marketplace. as i say in the book, we have trillions of dollars sitting on the sidelines now. yes the stock market is at an
all-time high, unemployment, eggs spy already for hardcore unemployed and those looking for jobs for many months continue to be without work. people who want work. now we saw a slight up tick on an employment rate because more people are starting to look for work again. they have a slightly increased level of, of optimism but, again, calvin coolidge, i want people to be taxed less so they have more. and when you and i have more money spend we will spend it or invest it and that is what creates jobs. reagan knew this. bush 43 knew this. even bill clinton who went down to speak to a group of houston businessmen after a tax increase because he helped push through congress, you think i raised your taxes too much. but so do i. that is case of having it both ways. >> host: under clinton we actually had, not only same tax rates we have now, in fact, they
were a little higher. >> guest: right. >> host: we had a surplus. >> guest: we had surplus, because democrats by the president were cutting defense and cutting spending on some of what most people would agree, particularly in the age of terrorism and now rice of china and iran's nuclear program, even the president now announced he wants to cut the military more, putin, others are getting this message that the united states doesn't have the will, much less the wherewithal to stand against tyrants around the world. so clinton cut the defense budget and again, when you cut spending and maintain a certain level of revenue, yeah you will get a balanced budget and probably a surplus. that is what is happening in the states. i have a whole chapter in the book what is happening in states. we indiana, louisiana, georgia, we have a lot of states who are doing fantastic jobs, many of them balanced budgets, yes state constitutions require them. that is good thing. wish we had that at federal level but because of their policy. indiana, the star state of my
view of the country, they send people checks when they have enough money. this is an amazing thing to me. they say, well, we don't need all this money. the federal government, word goes out, end of fiscal year, if you haven't spent it all, spend it all because your budget might be cut. but in indiana they send a check. what a remarkable thing. >> host: that is another topic you suggest in what works, common sense solutions and big government. you quote rush limbaugh extensively with regard to big government is terrible and go to the federalist papers and all the rest. >> guest: yes. >> host: you have to somehow explain to me, how can you say but social security, medicare, these things that are seniors rely on, that's a good thing, clearly you're a big fan of defense spending and that is of course, you know, guess what, i mean founding fathers were not about international use of our military overseas. they didn't want that. >> guest: thomas jefferson would
find that difficult. he sent marines to the barbary coast. >> host: eventually. their initial precept was -- >> guest: they lived in a different age. there is still a strain of that in the country today. let's talk about defense, this may surprise you. bob beckel and i agree on this there are a lot of weapons systems and planes and ships the military have said they don't want and don't need and yet, because those things are built in the district of congressman so-and-so, they get built anyway because makes him or her look good. creates more jobs. this is wasteful spending i'm talking about. both left and right, republican and democrat. they're both culpable on this i think what we need, juan, is something akin to the grace commission during the reagan administration or the brac commission, the base realignment and closing commission during i think the clinton administration. an outside group with integrity, former members of congress, no current elected politicians to come in and do a complete audit
of government from top to bottom. every agency of government, juan, has a piece of legislation or a charter that created it. it has a purpose. if it is not fulfilling that purpose or not doing it within reasonable budget, it should be cut or eliminated. let's take head start. this came in with highest motivation. do you know and i didn't until i reserved it, there are three head starts. there is early head start. there is enhanced head start and there is regular head start. why do we have the other two? because first one wasn't working. why do we have the third one? because the second one wasn't working. a dr. mull house, heritage foundation done research on american social programs that doesn't work. by the time the child goes through head start program under the fifth grade, all the benefits might have accrued in the first few years of his or her life are gone. "usa today" had a recent lead
editorial, head start at best, at best is mediocre. what i'm saying if it doesn't work or something like social security which was never intended to be the kind of program it is today. it was intended to be a safety net, an insurance program but we've haded all of these -- added all these bells and whistles on to it, a huge christmas tree to mix a metaphor which is why it is growing broke. initial idea was good one but politicians add stuff on and it becomes dysfunctional. >> host: this brings us to one of the interesting chapters in the book about education. basically you're saying they're always talking about these people who know too little, who rely on religion, evangelicals, do-nothing, no-nothing voters and the like and cal thomas and comes out in what works, says, why do you send kids off to the big-name schools, harvard, yale, princeton, ivy league, stand ford and the like? you say smart parents, even if
they're called do-nothings shouldn't send their kids to those schools. >> guest: let's take at recent debate now going on and continuing between governor andrew cuomo of new york and new york city mayor bill de blasio. we know during his campaign for mayor, mayor de blasio said basically he would end charter schools. he had this major rivalry with a woman in new york who is big proponent of them. andrew cuomo in speech two days ago, it is remarkable speech and shown me the words and didn't tell me who said i it i would be said it was delivered by a conservative republican. he said we spend more money in new york state per capita than anywhere else on public education yet we're number 32 in the nation in terms of achievement and math, reading other essentials anybody agree is absolutely required to make anything out of your life. we have to have school choice in this area. what i'm saying in the book, and i'm going beyond the
universities is, some of my liberal friends are for choice on abortion but are against choice for public schools and especially for poor and minority of children. we have reversal george wallace standing in the schoolhouse door to keep african-americans out, more than 50 years ago, we now have people standing in the schoolhouse door, the poor schools, to keep children in. when we all know that a good education the ticket to a child's success and competition whether it is package delivery or restaurants, improves everyone. so all i'm saying is, let's have choice in education. let's let parents decide which school, public, private, religious is best for their kid. let's also tell parents, if you don't want your kid to have their faith and real history of country undermined, don't send them to colleges and universities that do that. >> host: oh, that's why you're saying don't send your kids to the best colleges in america -- best colleges, in terms of the
competitive marketplace where you see people with money, and advantage send their children. they send them to stanford. they send them to harvard. >> guest: i know. >> host: you say don't send them, because you believe, because at end, those schools challenge some of the precepts of religious faith? >> guest: not just religious faith but history of your own country. one of the talk radio stations, woman called in and public schoolchild is getting indoctrination about the pilgrims and early come know lifts that -- colonists that somehow the native americans were bucolic people who were at peace with themselves and each other and these horrible white europeans invaded and gave them syphilis and gonorrhea and stole their corn and killed them off and all of this other stuff and this is the kind of stuff being taught increasingly in a government school system. most parents don't hear about it. it is not always in the textbooks, although it is in some. i think that, we are living in
an education model that was created in the 19th century. i'm all for diversity. this was supposed to be the great melting pot. you will have people of different background, religions and race all of that, come into central -- you will be taught something. i'm not opposed to that idea. i think it is a very good thing but however what are they being taught? if it violates the faith and values and the beliefs of the significant number of people, who are paying through their taxes for this, they ought to be able to have the choice of sending their child to another school, public, private, religious, that more reflects those views. . .
and am i just here to get an education, to make money, to buy stuff, is that going to make me happy, or do can i need a spiritual and moral dimension to buttress that, and i think that's what's missing in a lot of our government schools. >> host: and harvard is not a government school. >> guest: well, no -- >> host: you were talking about in the book don't send your kids to -- >> guest: harvard, dartmouth, princeton will all founded on biblical principles. you go there now, all of that's gone. i don't remember him, i remember him saying it, when he was president of harvard more than a century ago said the least that should be expected of a harvard
graduate is that he be able to pronounce the name of god without embarrassment. >> host: we'll be right back with cal thomas, his new book, "what works: common sense solutions for a stronger america." >> after words is available via podcast through itunes and xml. visit booktv.org and click podcast on the upper left side of the page. select which podcast you'd like to download and listen to after words while you travel. we're back with cal thomas. he's the author of a new book called "what works: common sense solutions for a stronger hurricane." cal, at the end of your book let's have, i'm quoting here, the equivalent of testimony time in church where we can start showcasing people who once lived in poverty and despair now living conservatively. inspiration followed by i motivation.
well, first, explain. kansas? >> guest: i made a speech which is reproduced in the book to the kansas chamber of commerce 18 months or so ago, and i think, you know, sam brownback, former united states senator from kansas, now governor of the state, has created some tremendous business-friendly programs there that are increasing employment and lowering taxes, and kansas is even talking about eliminating state income taxes. a number of states are doing that. louisiana's another that's talking about it. i forget the exact number, i think seven or eight states now do not have a state income tax when years ago it was only two, i think north carolina and florida. they still don't. many are realizing that this becomes an inhibitor to prosperity. now, i do say -- and i firmly believe and i've applied it in my own life, inspiration followed by motivation followed by perspiration improves any life. the whole metaphor of testimony time in church is meant to
convey the attitude i once was blind, but now i see. i grew up poor, but now i'm a ceo. take dr. ben carson who's been in the news a lot lately, the former chief of pediatric neurosurgery at johns hopkins hospital. a perfect example of how people can overcome dire circumstances. had a horrible growing up in detroit, single mother he and his brother, etc., etc., most people know the story. they could look it up. we don't tell those kinds of stories in america. america's a storytelling nation. >> host: well, in fact, in the book you have an entire section of people who would give this testimonial, and you tell their stories. >> guest: right. >> host: so rather than have me pick out own or two with, why don't you as the author -- >> guest: well, i talk about ben carson, johnny erickson tata who is a paraplegic and studied a lot with the meaning of life.
taught herself to paint by sticking paint brush in her teeth and has created a lot of wonderful things. worked with handicapped people, was behind push strongly the americans with disabilities act and has been an inspiration to millions including people who do not have physical challenges. there are a couple of african people in there who grew up in horrible circumstances that you couldn't even imagine if you were writing a work of fiction. and yet they managed to overcome, and they managed to come to america where they sought opportunity, and now they're independent and prospering. again, ben carson is a great story. the point of these stories and, you know, paul harvey used to do them, the late paul harvey on his radio program called "the rest of the story." okay, if you think you've had a hard life and difficulty, let me just tell you about somebody else ask how they overcame. we're going to tell you. i go back and tell the story of leslie stahl did this piece some years ago in a harlem housing project in new york. this was all minorities, led by
minority. hard core unemployed people who have either never had a job, or they were only hamburger flippers working for minimum wage. they taught people how to dress for a job interview, how to shake hands, stuff that you and i would take for granted but these people had never been taught. they followed this one african-american woman into a job interview. she applied all the things she had learned, she came out and she was in tears because she got the job. for the first time in her life, she felt she had value. nobody had told her this before. well, you're black, you're female, you're living in the ghetto, your life is going to be lousy, vote for democrats. that's the message that so many get. so i'm saying if we can have more inspiration and more people telling how they overcame, then i think we're going to inspire a lot of people. america's always been a storytelling nation. we don't tell the stories anymore. >> host: do you think that's a dodge from the fact that there's
growing inequality this terms of incomes and earnings in our country that when you look at the realities, the harsh realities, what you see is that the top 1% -- famous now from the occupy movement -- but the top 1% have taken in a disproportionate, wildly disproportion nail share of increases in wealth in the country over the last ten years. and the consequence has been a declining middle class, increasing numbers of people in poverty. and when you hold up, you know, exceptional people and say, oh, well, this person did it, so you can do it too, it's fine, that really runs counter to what we see as the larger structural issues this the society. >> host: president obama and some of the democrats have been talking about a lot about income inequality, and i wrote a column a few weeks ago in which i stated that i had a deep, dark secret that i had hidden from public view for many years, and it was very 'em parissing for me to -- embarrassing for me to go public with it. i said, i suffer from income inequality. it's true, juan.
there have always been people who made more money than i. you probably make more money than i do, but you know something? it doesn't affect me. the fact that you make $2 and i make $1 doesn't mean you owe me 50 cents. income isn't fixed for everybody for life. if there's only one bowl of food at the dinner table and i take more than you, that might be unfair because it might not be satisfying your hunger. but if i give you a recipe or ask ask the cook to bring in more food or the recipe so you can make your own food, that's fair. so the fact that donald trump makes more than i do has absolutely nothing to do with my income level. i used to interview as a young reporter wealthy and successful people. i didn't envy them. i said where'd yo go to school? what's your philosophy of life? i might like to be like you. but now the attitude is it's not fair, that doesn't build me up. where are the poor people better off because of higher taxes?
are they getting a direct check if donald trump or ted turner or you or me pays more taxes? is no. they're not improving their lives. they're not saying, you know, for three years i got this government welfare check, and now i'm ceo of my company. you never hear that. >> host: but i'm saying to you, you have a situation where the question is maximizing opportunity for all. and when you look at the realities of the income distribution charts this the country now -- in the country now, they're becoming, they're swinging wildly out of proportion in terms of who is gaining wealth and opportunity even in terms of those schools that you scorn. the children that get to go there tend to be the children of the rich. the rich are getting more and more of our money. the big returns are on wall street these days. so it sounds as if you're being indifferent to people who are struggling to get themselves out of poverty and onto the ladder of upward motion. >> guest: i used to be poor, juan. when i was in the army, i made $99 a month. and i was working in new york
city at armed forces radio. we had no car, i was young married. we took the subway. it was ten cents, it went to 15, now it's over $2. but i never envied people. i said i can improve my life, i'm going to keep working at it. i was 37 years old making $25,000 a year and still struggling, taking public transportation to work. we had one car. >> host: but, cal, the way you're talking sounds like you're celebrating individual virtue -- >> guest: that's what america's all about! >> host: yeah. so even when somebody is ripping off the system, causing wall street to collapse, you say ignore that -- >> guest: no! if you rewind the tape, wouldn't, you'll see that i -- juan, you'll see that i said i didn't think aig and some of these others should have been bailed out. i think they should have been allowed to fail. the i think the people responsible for the recession should have paid the biggest price, not the investors and not the employees.
if they didn't go to jail, and a lot of them should have that didn't, they should have been forced to pay back some of the people that they injured. when -- >> host: but if they had no money and they were going to collapse the entire american economic system, if you roll back the tape i said that to you, but again i come back to the idea that you don't focus on the idea of what we as an american people can do to try the correct some of the flaws in the way that we live. instead, your position -- and it's the position of the book -- is correcting human mistakes is a game. you're not going to do it. >> guest: juan, government cannot force me to stay married to my wife, to be an example to my children, to have honesty and integrity in my professional life. those are moral and spiritual issues that come from another place. >> host: right. >> guest: government can impose certain penalties if i break certain laws, but it can't force me to be moral and virtuous. not that i am, i'm just saying.
so i'm saying -- what i'm saying -- let me use this analogy. there was a catholic bishop years ago who stood up at the 1979 national prayer breakfast in washington and asked a question: how do we twine a football field -- define a football field? by its boundaries, he said. now, we've exceeded our bondlies in -- boundaries in every area, and we wonder why we have these problems. huge numbers of incurable now stds, so many babies born out of wedlock, an enormous abortion rate including and especially among minority americans, over 80% of black babies in new york is aborted. jesse jackson used to say that -- >> host: that's not true, by the way. >> guest: what? >> host: 80% of the abortions in new york city are among minorities, so that's blacks, hispanics, asians and others, but 70% of the population is
minority. so it's not as wildly disproportionate -- >> guest: but the point is, juan, is that we're cheapening life at all levels. and when you had something like hillarycare, now obamacare, sarah palin talked about death panels and was widely ridiculed. but this is what's happened in -- >> host: she was talking about obamacare. >> guest: yes, but i'm about to make a point here. there's a chapter in my book called "cure versus care." this may surprise you. i'm all for government spending more money to find cures. if we could find a cure to alzheimer's disease which is a huge affliction of the baby boomers now as they are retiring, you're going to save a whole lot of money from having to treat people with alzheimer's. and so many other decides. so -- decides. so i'm for investing as much money as possible. but as i started to say about the nhs this great britain, you're now seeing people on panels, you can call them whatever you like, denying people care and surgery because
it costs too much or they're too old, or they're not contributing enough to the government coffers. that, i believe, is what is coming here. and the reason it's coming here is because life has been cheapened at one level, the unborn, and now the challenge is going to be at the other level; the elderly, the infirm, the unwanted. it's coming. >> host: all right. and one of the heroes that you cite in your book is none other than john calvin thomas. [laughter] so your story, your story is, for you, an example of this virtue. explain. >> guest: well, i was very fortunate. i had two parents who stayed married. i had a brother who died a year and a half ago of, he had down's syndrome. at the time when he was born, in 1950, children like that were either institutionalized and not expected to live beyond their 20s. my parents said we're not going to do that, and so he lived to
be 60. and that was an example of compassion that i carry with me to this day. but my compassion is not just about giving a hand out, it's about giving a hand up. i'm not going to tell you all the people i work with and the things i've done for people because that would sound self-serving. but you'd be surprised at a lot of the things i do for people monetarily, relationally and other things, but the goal is always to help them improve their lives and to become independent and functioning individuals. not just to say, you know, oh, there's a guy with a sign on the side of the road, i'll give him a few bucks tax-free money so he can do whatever he wants with it. you stop and says, hey, says we'll work for food. too many people stopped and said, okay, i've got a job, you want to cut my lawn? no, no. but i do think we've redefined compassion, juan, and my story while i was very fortunate to
grow up in a two-parent home, i worked very hard. year, my father called me in and said, you know, i'm happy to support you these few years, but if you go back, you're going to pay your own way. because when i did, i got serious and my grades went up. let's let him back in with no price to pay. that taught me a great lesson. that's why i say failure's a wonderful thing. if you learn from it, but if you just accept the idea of victim hood, one of the quos from roger ailes, our boss at fox news, he said, you know, if you think of yourself as a victim, you'll always be a victim. but if you think of yourself as a success, eventually you will be one. i love that attitude. >> host: well, so but in your story you talk about having been turned down by many newspapers as you desired to write a column, but then here comes one editor who says at the l.a.
times, let's give him a chance. why don't you tell that story. >> guest: i first met tom johnson in the lyndon johnson administration, and i was a copy boy at nbc. found him to be a very engaging young man andbpi hoped he founde same in me. years later i wrote a column as a lark. i'd written this book in 1983 called "book burning" about censorship from the left, and so about it, and i sent it off to what i thought would be the least likely paper to print it, the new york times. and they printed it. still framed on my wall. and then i wrote another one on a subject that interested me, "the washington post." i thought, man, what's going on here? so i contacted all these syndicates. again, my background was broadcasting, not newspapers, and they all turned me down. i remembered that tom was publisher of the l.a. times at the time, and i called him up, and i said, tom, i think there's a dearth of good, conservative commentary, particularly on the social and cultural issues that
get people's attention. he said, you may be right. next time you come out to l.a., let me know, and i'll set you up with my syndicate people. they miraculously, i would say, offered me a chance to do two columns a week, and in april it'll be 30 years. and at one time -- i don't know where it is now, how many papers, but it was among the top syndicated columns in america. i never took no for an answer. i never took rejection as the final word. and there's an old song that barbara cook sings among others, it's not where you start, it's where you finish. >> host: and, in fact, you mentioned in "what works" that johnson is a liberal. >> guest: yeah. he's a liberal democrat. but he's a real committed to diversity and pluralism. i dedicated the book to him because he opened the door for me. my life changed because of him. i had dinner with him recently in atlanta, he and his wife, and they're just great people. and this is, see, this is what's
happened, juan. i mention this in the book too. nobody knows anybody anymore in washington especially. we're all labeled, liberal, conservative. yes, i do it for communications, i know. you know, we're all parts of groups, african-american, latino, women, men, gay, straight, whatever it is. so we're all identified by labels. and nobody gets to know each other. it's like bob beckel and i have become very, very close personal friends. i know about his family life, his kids, his desires, his frustrations and all this, and he knows about mine because we look beyond the labels. but there's a lot of money and political power in keeping us divided, juan. you know, solutions to problems hurts fundraising. i asked a fundraiser years ago, hey, how come you never send out a positive letter? he says you can't raise money on a positive. how cynical and devisive is that? we're no longer the united states of america, we're the divided states of groups. and that's what is really
harming us, i think, on many levels. >> host: but this book is, in fact, directed at one of those niche audiences which is the hard right. >> guest: well, i hope not. look, i read a lot of liberals. i have many, many liberal friends who are authors is columnists. i pay attention to what they're saying, and in the book i say, look, if it's a liberal idea, if it's living up to its established reason for being, its charter, its authorized legislation, i'm for it. if it's doing people good, if it's promoting the general welfare, i'm for it. again, government is not evil. government is good if it functions within its boundaries, but we've exceeded those boundaries, and that's why government's become dysfunctional. >> host: but when i say the book is part of a niche argument, the fragmented america you lament, you've got a forward by sean hannity, you quote limbaugh, you note that mark levin is the big -- and there are no liberal ideas, including social security that you say you like or
medicare. they're not cited here. >> guest: look, this is, this is a counterargument to much of the problem we're facing. if i thought that government was working well, if i thought it was functioning well and promoting the general welfare, if i thought the tenth amendment was being lived under that all rights not specifically delegated to the federal government will be reserved for the states and the people, if i believed in all of that, i wouldn't have even written the book. so this is a counterargument to what the left is saying about government is the solution to all of our problems. if you tune into john stossel's excellent show on fox on saturday night, he's a libertarian. he goes a little further than i would, but he basically deconstructs all these government programs and mostly the attitude that people turn to government first. it's like a religious cult, juan, that no matter the proof that the belief is incorrect, physical proof, people continue to believe in it. and i think, you know, government has relaced god.
we used to turn to god. now we turn to government as our god be, and we wonder why it's not working. >> host: and you say liberals return to government even though clinton said -- >> guest: well, he said it. >> host: and you hear obama saying we have to do more in terms of building up family and individual responsibility -- >> guest: yeah. well, i'm all for that, but talk is cheap, you know? i'm just saying -- >> host: in other words, the niche audience, it seems, is the conservative, hard-right, maybe as you experience evangelical audience. >> guest: i don't see myself as hard right. again, we're using labels here. >> host: okay. >> guest: do you want to ask who one of my favorite all-time writers was? frank rich, who wrote brilliant columns for "the new york times." i still think he's one of my favorite columnists of all time. i read, i like to say i read two things every day, my bible and "the new york times" so i know what each side is doing. [laughter] look, i'm friendly, but this is
a counterargument. it's like medicine that doesn't taste good. you might not like it, but it's good for you. understand the arguments, sure, pick it apart if you think i'm wrong, but give me the evidence. tell me why three head start programs aren't producing what they should. tell me why there are over 40 different literacy programs in the federal government that overlap or counter one another. why do we have that? why is there so much duplication in federal government of programs, especially when none of them seem to be working and producing the desired results. that's why i want another grace commission to go through top to bottom -- i don't care if it's a liberal or conservative idea. you know, one of the things i mention, i don't think it's in the book but i'm mentioning in the lecture circle, we're going to teach kids they ought to be virgins until they're married. that's a very, very noble goal. however, the program isn't working. so if it's not working, get rid of it. and that's a conservative evangelical program. >> host: that's not in the book.
>> guest: well, i couldn't put everything in there. >> host: no, but i'm saying, the finger is pointed at the liberals. >> guest: they're the party of government, and they've been at it a lot longer. conservatives want to put government back within its boundaries. it's like a river, in its boundaries it's wonderful for sailing, for fishing, for similarring, whatever, but -- swimming, whatever, but when there's a flood, it destroys property and sometimes lives. >> host: now, cal, when we think about solutions and looking back to traditions and traditional america and looking to god in the evangelical sent of god as directing us all in every moment, almost predestination if you will, the question then becomes, oh, how does cal thomas think about the rising number of minorities in america, or thousand we see more and more muslims in america. in the book it doesn't seem like you have a very welcoming attitude towards the muslim community. >> guest: well, look, this is a
nation that began on the issue of religious freedom. those who came from england did not want a state church, and i certainly don't want one. i don't want the government telling me how to worship or if to worship. so i'm all for that. but i do think if you're going to be part of america and if you come from another country, even a different religious background, then you have to be part of that pluralism. you can make your case in the public square for your belief or system, but i don't think you can impose all of it through government, and that includes my point of view, my world view, the christian world view on everybody who doesn't agree with it. i think these things are one out in the marketplace. they certainly were in civil rights. dr. king, ralph abernathy, others who i was fortunate enough to be a contemporary of. i went to the "i have a dream" speech. it changed my thinking on a lot of things regarding race because i didn't know any african-american people other than the maids my parents
employed until i started playing basketball. oh, i knew about them, but i didn't know anyone as a fellow human being. so i think, you know, i'm all for muslims in this country, jews, christians, unbelievers and the rest, but i do think there's a great fear particularly among radical islam that there are certain people who want to infiltrate us and undermine us. and i think we saw that, 9/11 these guys came in, they took the training in florida and other places on how to fly airplanes. they weren't discriminated against, they were given the same lessons that anybody else would be given. so i think we have to be careful. and, clearly, the radical islams come out of a background taught by their imams that their god wants people who don't believe as they do dead. i'm all for people having complete freedom who don't agree with my religious or political world view, but i've found increasingly that a lot of the extremists within that religion don't, and they have a responsibility to speak up and isolate those people who feel
that way. >> host: in fact, what comes through in the book though is this kind of, you know, discan couraged view about -- discouraged view about what islam, especially muslims in america are up to. and so the question is how would you deal with this? >> guest: well, i think the government has a primary responsibility. and from what we know, they are dealing with some of it. they're monitoring some of the more radical mosques. tony blair when he was prime minister of england tried to deport those who were preaching hate from some of the mosques. and not just hate, but insurrection, who wanted to bring down the british government, felt that their god commanded them to do so. now, he tried to deport them, especially those who were connected with some of the extremists who went out and killed people. you had the subway bombing in britain, 7/7, and -- but he was constrained by their version of the aclu. and i think it came to the point where he was unable to deport any of them. we've got a serious problem here. we want everybody to come to america under the law in an
orderly fashion, but we used to have people, the the irish, the poles, the germans, others, who came and assimilated. they wanted their children to learn english, they loved america. now we're all hyphenated americans. one of my favorite lines from whoopi goldberg, she said i'm not an african-american, i'm an american. yes, she gets it. but we're all hyphenated now. we're all parts of subgroups, and that's the kind of thing that is harming our country. >> host: when it comes to the civil rights movement and you touched on it briefly with the distinction between the different reverends of the different eras, but you've acknowledged that, you know what? if you go back to the founders who embraced slavery in the constitution, if you look at most of the history of the country where legal segregation was the law, you say, well, that's wrong but change was needed. but in most other areas you don't embrace change, and you
don't embrace the idea of us working as a community to improve the quality of all of our lives and our nation. >> guest: let me just touch on one thing that you said about the founders. not all of them owned slaves and were for slavery. but like mr. lincoln said almost a hundred years later, if it required preserving slavery in order to save the union, he was, he was in favor of preserving slavery. if it, if emancipation would preserb the union -- preserve the union, he would be for emancipation. and the founders as you know, juan, were at the moment -- and this wasn't the only issue. >> host: no, no, i understand that, but my point is they signed the documents. right. i'm just saying -- >> guest: but, look, dr. king referred and so did lincoln referred back to those founding documents. particularly that greatest phrase ever written about human freedom. all men are created equal and endowed by their creator.
they understood that rights in order to be protected from government had to be put outside the reach of government. and dr. king appealed to that, and lincoln appealed to that -- >> host: no, i understand, you're absolutely right. but i'm not discussing that. what i'm talking about is in this book in terms of trying to say there are common sense solutions that predate all of these arguments -- >> guest: yes, of course. >> host: well, gee, so does slavery. and so does oppression of women. >> guest: well, right. well, look, we could go on for an hour about that, but slavery, denial of civil rights are moral issues primarily. yes, lyndon johnson -- to his everlasting credit through voting rights and open housing -- helped force that particular part of the country, and not just the south. you had south boston, and you had riots, race riots there too, so it wasn't just a southern thing. into an attitude and with the pictures on television, and i was working during that period for nbc, and i was with
reporters including a guy named charles quinn who went downéwu"h the freedom riders in massachusetts, put film on the air that helped kv)e the conscience of the american people that this was not just wrong legally, this was wrong morally. black people were entitled to is the same rights, lunch counters, restrooms, jobs, housing, whatever it is not because the government was going tos[ give t to them orbed but because -- or should, but because they enjoyed the -- >> host: but, cal, you understand government had to enforce equal treatment. >> guest: that's true. >> host: not enforce segregation. so government was an important instrument there. >> guest: it was.ç and, again, i'm not saying -- again, juan, i don't want to be misunderstood here. i'm not throwing the baby out with the bath water. there is a reason for government. government needs to restrain what the theologians call sinful people who will not be constrained from within by a higher power. that is the purpose of government. government is a
biblically-established institution. but it has its limitations. the founders wanted government to be restrained and within boundaries so that the people would be unlimited. that's why the preamble starts we the people, not you the government. >> host: cal thomas, thanks so much for coming in. >> guest: thank you. >> host: "what works: common sense solutions for a stronger america." and you'll notice on the cover cal has a groundhog over his left shoulder. [laughter] that's because he thinks we keep ignoring the common sense solutions that our forefathers have begin us. >> guest: repeating the same thing the every day like the movie "groundhog day." >> host: thank you for joining us on after words. >> guest: thank you, juan. >> that was "after words," booktv's signature program in which authors of the latest nonfiction books are interviewed by journalists, public policymakers, legislators and others familiar with their material.
"after words" airs every weekend on booktv at 10 p.m. on saturday, 12 and 9 p.m. on sunday and 12 a.m. on monday. you can also watch "after words" online. go to booktv.org and click on "after words "in the booktv series and topics list on the upper right side of the page. >> next on booktv, max brooks recounts the first african-american regiment to fight in world war i. the 369th infantry regiment dubbed the harlem hellfighters. he spoke at the free library of pennsylvania for a little urn an hour. a little under an hour. [applause] >> thank you. can you guys hear me if i just talk like this? can you guys hear me in the back? you can't? all right, how's this? or is this not even -- oh, this is on. wow. thank you for coming. i've got to say, this is new for