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Michael Moore [00:01:30] Hello, I’m Michael Moore, and this is Rumble. Welcome everyone to today’s podcast. We have a very special guest, a brand new author, but somebody that you may have seen on TV for a number of years. Heather McGhee is going to be our guest. And we’re going to talk about her book “The Sum Of Us” and a whole bunch of other things. I’m really looking forward to this conversation. Also, as we are recording this on Thursday evening, word has come through that a cease fire is about to start in Israel and Palestine. And by the time you hear this, hopefully that will have already happened. Apparently, President Biden made his feelings known to Benjamin Netanyahu that this had to stop.
Michael Moore [00:02:20] And as we are the bank, when the bank calls, things happen and I’m only laughing because I, you know, it’s one of those things where if you don’t laugh, you cry about the whole thing. So hopefully the killing mostly ninety five percent of it, Israel killing Palestinians, civilians, children has a pause on it now. But that doesn’t mean that those of us who are citizens and who pay for these atrocities can take our foot off the gas pedal. So if you haven’t already gone to the White House website and sent your notes and thoughts to President Biden, we need you to do that. WhiteHouse.gov and make your feelings known and also call your senators. Call your members of Congress. Talk to your neighbors about this.
Michael Moore [00:03:11] Share some of the links that I’ve provided on social media and here on this podcast platform with what, you know, just the facts that people need to have. Not the nonstop B.S. that we have to listen to every time this kind of crap starts. I’m sick of it. I don’t want to talk about it anymore. I want it to end, and I want Palestinians to have the same rights every citizen on this planet should have, and they are living in essentially a prison. In the West Bank and Gaza. A prison that is controlled by Benjamin Netanyahu and his cronies and the government there. And that’s just got to stop. So I hope you feel the same way as I feel. Check out my Facebook and Instagram postings here in the last couple of days, I have some more thoughts and other things I’ve shared with you. So please, please do that.
Michael Moore [00:04:10] The other thing I want to tell you about and give you a heads up about something coming up here in a week is I’m going to have a documentary filmmaker, someone who I consider to be one of the best documentary filmmakers alive today. His name is Raoul Peck. But before he comes on next week, probably the end of next week. But my guest Raoul Peck will appear on Friday, May 28th. But I’m bringing it up now a week in advance because you need to watch his brand new documentary. It comes in four parts. It’s on HBO right now, so you might have to go on to HBO On demand or HBO Max. If you don’t have that, you can sign up for a free 30 day trial. You know, just sign up for 30 days and watch. The documentary is called “Exterminate All the Brutes.”
Michael Moore [00:05:16] And I believe that it’s a line from Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness,” Raoul Peck, who again made this brilliant film a couple of years back, called “I Am Not Your Negro.” 2017 is when it came out, it was nominated for an Oscar that year for Best Documentary, and it recounted the life and the legacy of James Baldwin. And of course, Baldwin, sadly, is no longer with us. So Samuel L. Jackson narrated the film as if he was Baldwin. He was doing Baldwin’s voice. So if you have a chance to see that someday, please watch that film. But this is his follow up film to that film, and it’s called “Exterminate All the Brutes,” and it’s in four different chapters that are each a little less than an hour long. And I’m going to tell you, I watched this last month and I just [went] wow, man. American television does not normally allow this kind of documentary on the air.
Michael Moore [00:06:20] It’s not just a documentary about white supremacy and racism. It really goes after in such a profound way, covering, jumping back and forth over, you know, 500 years or longer of sort of the history of white people. A people’s history of the history of white people. And, you know, while we’ve done, you know, some good things, the gas grill barbecue, I think we invented that. Putting toothpaste in a tube. I think that’s ours. But man, my friends, I don’t have to go down the list of the scourge that the race away people have been on this planet. He starts off the documentary, Peck does, with these three words. He just says civilization, colonialism and extermination. And that’s what you’re going to get a history of over these next three plus almost four hours. It is a radical and beautiful film, and my friends, it must be seen and shared by as many people as possible.
Michael Moore [00:07:32] Raoul Peck himself narrates this one, he doesn’t get Samuel L. Jackson. He narrates this film himself. And as he says in his voice over: the very existence of this film is a miracle. I couldn’t agree more. I sat there watching this and thinking, How did he get this, even on HBO? Which you know, generally, they have a good history of looking for the good stuff. But even this, so listen, what I need you to do before he comes on as my guest in a week, I need you to try to watch some or all of this film “Exterminate All The Brutes.” Would you do that for me? Because we’re going to have a discussion about it and I want you to know what we’re talking about. It’s a dense film, it’s complex, it’s layered. You don’t want to miss it, so that’s why I encourage you to please watch it on HBO. It’s on HBO On demand I think until this coming Tuesday or Wednesday, maybe. Then they’re taking it down. I hope it’s an intense and wonderful conversation here on Rumble on Friday. So please watch that if you can and then listen to me and Raoul talk about it next weekend.
Michael Moore [00:09:10] Our guest today is Heather McGhee and she is one of the most brilliant thinkers and policy experts that we have in this country. For years, she’s been producing groundbreaking work on economic justice, racial equality, workers rights and other important issues as the president of the think tank, Demos. After she left Demos in 2018, she’s taken a deeper look at why the question of America, the richest and most powerful country in the world, can’t have nice things for everybody. You know, like good health care for all, good jobs for all, good education for all, clean drinking water. And on and on. What is it about us that prevents us from providing our people with these basic human needs? The answer to this vexing question: frightened white people.
Michael Moore [00:12:23] That is what seems to be in the way, and she has brilliantly laid out this case that so many of the problems that America faces, that white fear is not just holding back Black Americans and other minority groups, it’s also holding back all Americans, including white people. From becoming a society that’s just and modern and has civil democracy and one that takes care of its people. Heather studies these searing questions in her just published book, it’s her first book, by the way, it’s called “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together.” I am pleased to welcome her to Rumble for the very first time. So welcome to Rumble, Heather McGhee. I’m so honored that you’re here on this podcast today.
Michael Moore [00:13:25] As I was reading this, I felt like you were very gently trying to knock our heads together. You know, like my grandmother would do. Take two kids and go, OK, you two numskulls, you know, this isn’t working. Knock it off. Knock it off. But I’m just going to let you go ahead and explain what the major ethos is behind this book. If you want to start with chapter two, the whole concept is because I remember this and I grew up in Flint, Michigan, but I grew up in a mostly white area just outside the city. And we had a pool, we had a community pool. And I remember as a young kid, it was so much fun spending time there. And then all of a sudden the pool was gone. And when I read this chapter, I thought this couldn’t have been the reason, right? When a dozen black families had moved into this area, is that it? Did they want to make sure that there would be no integration because there were these…?
Michael Moore [00:14:37] You should explain this, but there are these court cases, you know, and we the white kids didn’t get to swim anymore, didn’t get to have a pool, because it was more important to enforce the racism.
Heather McGhee [00:14:50] Mm hmm.
Michael Moore [00:14:51] Then for the parents…it was more racism than to make sure their kids were happy and got to go swimming in a pool on a hot summer day. I turn it over to you.
Heather McGhee [00:15:07] You know, Michael, I don’t know this story of how racism drained the public pools across the country. It’s one that keeps unfolding, the more I talk about it, the more people put the pieces together and talk about exactly what you just said. They have these memories from their own childhoods. But I do know that the United States used to have nearly 2,000 grand resort style public swimming pools that were paid for by tax dollars. They were built in sort of a building boom in the 1930s and 40s. They were part and parcel of a New Deal ethos that said that it’s the public duty. It is the responsibility of the government to ensure a decent standard of living for our people and, as you said, you know, on a hot summer day, this was a public health imperative to have a place where, you know, before air conditioning was common to really provide this public amenity.
Heather McGhee [00:16:04] And you know, I tell the story of how many of those pools, if not most, were segregated, whether by law and public ordinance or just by, you know, intimidation and violence, right? And how when the civil rights movement created an upswell of Black families advocating and suing to say, Hey, those are our tax dollars that built those pools. We want our kids to swim too. Many towns across the country drained their public pools rather than integrate them. And I tell that story at the heart of the book. It’s actually the sort of counterfactual: a white kid and a Black kid swimming together is on the cover of “The Sum Of Us,” because for me, it helped solve a mystery for me that had been really puzzling over my entire two decade career in economic policy, working at and then running a think tank dedicated to addressing inequality in America.
Heather McGhee [00:17:01] Which is basically why, when the United States had figured out the formula for broadly shared prosperity for the greatest middle class the world had ever seen, why did the majority of white voters turn their backs on that formula and throw in their lot with the private sector, with the corporate class, with the elites? And that mystery for me, I knew how it had happened, right, I knew about the tax policy and the trade policy and all the attacks on labor, all the things that you in your career have done so well to sort of show us the human stories of. I didn’t know the why. And so this idea about how racism drained the pool became, for me, an allegory of what happened when a society, a white society that had seen government as the guarantor of a middle class life from all the programs of the New Deal, the massive suburban housing developments, the backstopping and creation of mortgages and no down payment homeownership, Social Security, high wage and hour laws, collective bargaining enforcement, the GI Bill of 1944, putting a generation into homeownership and free public college paid for by the state and federal grants.
Heather McGhee [00:18:19] Right, this was sort of the birthright of white Americans in the middle of the 20th century, and virtually everything I described was for whites only and segregated, either explicitly like in the mortgage market, which the federal government said we will not lend to Black families. We will not let Black families move into these subsidized housing developments or the GI Bill, which was race neutral on its face but was filtered, the benefits were filtered through segregated housing and higher education sectors. And so the white middle class was created out of this ethos of big government. In 1956 and 1960, two-thirds of white Americans believed that the government ought to guarantee a job for everyone who wanted one, a job guarantee and a minimum income in the country that nobody could fall below. And by 1964, that support among white Americans had dropped from nearly 70 percent to just 35 percent and stayed low ever since.
Heather McGhee [00:19:20] And so really, truly, it was the civil rights movement that was the final sort of move of the Democratic Party from becoming the New Deal party to expanding to be the party of equal rights under that social contract. That was the betrayal. And you saw white Americans turn away from government, drain the public pool, you know, sort of throw in their lot with a kind of corporate vision of society, which is a very old, you know, choose your race over your class bargain and, of course, that meant that just as you said, Mike, that white families lost out too, right? That of course, now when we’re at a time, 50 years later, when one percent of the country owns more wealth than the entire middle class, the inequality era that was ushered in with the votes and support of white Americans, you know, in overwhelming numbers, ever since Reagan, you know, has created a lot of suffering and economic pain for white families, too. So that’s the thesis of the book: that racism has a cost ultimately for everyone.
Michael Moore [00:20:28] I’m so glad when you said that you decided that you wanted to explore the why. Journalism, you know, if you took journalism 101, is about going out there as a reporter and telling the public the who, what, when, where, how and why. Right?
Heather McGhee [00:20:45] Mm hmm.
Michael Moore [00:20:46] That was the very first thing you were taught. But while I was growing up, by the time I was a teenager, it seemed to me that journalism did a pretty good job of telling you the WHO. Naming the names and the where it was and how it happened and what exactly did happen and when it happened. And oftentimes not very good about telling us the why.
Heather McGhee [00:21:11] Mm-Hmm.
Michael Moore [00:21:12] And I’m just curious. I mean, you didn’t know and I think you started your journey in 2017, so you probably wrote this and in 2018, 2019, 2020.
Heather McGhee [00:21:23] Yeah.
Michael Moore [00:21:25] But before the demonstrations of last year, before the murder of George Floyd, all of this then begins to happen as you’re finishing this book. And I’m just curious of the impact that had on you and how you, because I could see what you’re doing on so many pages of this book, you’re trying in a very actually kind and loving way to reach out to those parts of white America that still don’t kind of get it.
Heather McGhee [00:21:58] Mm-Hmm.
Michael Moore [00:21:58] And the fact that you care, that you want them to get it, you know, it’s I think very generous on your part.
Heather McGhee [00:22:09] Well, thank you, Michael. Well, I have a lot of empathy. That’s just sort of how I’m wired, right. You know, it’s just sort of the way I’ve always been. And I often look, and this is something that my parents taught me to do, I look to the more powerful people in a scenario. You know, I mean, racist ideas have been sold by the narrow, self-interested, wealthy elite since before our nation’s founding. And I’m more interested in holding accountable those who are selling those ideas for their own profit than the people who are desperate enough to buy them. And it feels to me like this formula, right, to have a landowning property owning wealthy elite, that means the allegiance and, you know, kind of in some cases, literal like, you know, manpower and firepower, but certain political allegiance of the broader white working and middle classes in order to hold up the system that props them up.
Heather McGhee [00:23:15] Because the elite tells white folks blame Black and brown people, separate yourself from Black and brown people, you’re better than them. You don’t want to be in solidarity with them. You don’t want to organize into a union with them. You don’t want to swim in the same pool as them. You’re better than them. You’re like us. That’s been sort of the racial bargain of the American dream in America. And so as I’ve grown up since the 1980s, seeing how the benefit of that racial bargain has gotten smaller and smaller as inequality has grown year after year, as the wealthy have simply stopped funding our common good sense since racism drained the pool. And rich people could build backyard pools and have, you know, members only private clubs.
Heather McGhee [00:24:04] And that’s sort of what’s happened across our economy. It’s what happened to public colleges, which used to be free because the government picked up the tab and now the majority of states, the majority of money for money for state schools comes from private families, comes from tuition. And then the government makes money off of it, right, with interest bearing loans instead of grants. That to me, is racism draining the pool. It hurts white families, Black families, brown families, everybody. You know, health care is another thing we privatized. We’ve moved away from any kind of momentum to fully create a public national health insurance program. And it was really the sort of racists in Washington who fought Harry Truman’s original proposal, and it’s racist today who are opposing Medicaid expansion at the state level. We have this Mason-Dixon line, where the federal government is offering free money to the states to let working class people in their state be able to afford to see a doctor because they’re not getting health insurance on the job.
Heather McGhee [00:25:11] And they’re paid too little to buy it in the open market and they’re refusing. And the sociological research shows that race has a huge, you know, correlation with with the more Black people there are in a state, basically, the less willing the white power structure is to expand Medicaid and how racialized the idea of the Affordable Care Act is because it was passed by President Obama. So I feel like for me, I came at this issue from an economic standpoint, and it’s very clear that the economy is simply not working for most people. It’s obviously working better for the typical white family than it is for the typical black family. But it’s not doing great for the typical white family, either. And this country has so much wealth, our people are so productive.
Heather McGhee [00:25:59] If we could simply reject this zero-sum worldview, this idea that progress for people of color is a threat to white people, that a dollar more in a Black family’s pocket means a dollar less in a white family’s pocket. You’re literally hearing this rhetoric again. When Biden and Harris are talking about the American jobs and families plan, you’re hearing, you know, mostly white folks saying, Well, if we pay for universal child care, you know, that’s coming out of my pocket. Or, you know, if we pay for infrastructure, you know, that means that I’m going to have to pay. And it’s really this ideology that now today it is so plain to see where it’s coming from, right? You had a phony millionaire in the White House, having this as his, you know, core story. You have paid bullies in the corporate media like Tucker Carlson and billionaire plutocrats with their own propaganda machine like the Sinclair’s and the Murdochs. And this is their bread and butter. This is the story that they are selling on an hourly basis on social media and on Fox News and right wing radio. And what is the goal? The goal is to get white voters to keep supporting a party whose agenda is tax cuts, deregulation and globalized trade.
Michael Moore [00:27:20] I’m just curious, why do you care? Why do you care, especially for a group of people, and we’re not talking about all white people, obviously, but the majority of white people, the majority of all white people, the majority voted for Donald Trump. Sixty five percent of the men and 50, this last time, I think, was fifty five, somewhere between 53 and 55 percent of the white women voted for Trump. And in fact, I believe Trump won every white age demographic with the exception of young people, young voters between the ages of 18 and 35. So clearly, white people have taken a stand. If you see three white men walking down the street toward you, this is just what I tell people, I see three white guys walking toward me, first of all, I already know two of them voted for Trump. And then I just try to, you know, go to the other side of the street. I don’t want any trouble when they see me, but I’ve got to believe now that more than one out of every two white women are Trumpeters and it’s like, Oh my god.
Heather McGhee [00:28:35] And how did Obama get elected? How did Biden get elected? How did this happen? And I thought, Well, because we’re a changing country, we will sometime in the 2040s. White people will not be the majority race and our young people. We’ve raised a generation or two of young people now that the vast majority of them are not haters, not bigots, not homophobes. And so good on us, you know, for raising them the right way. But nonetheless, between now and 2045, what do we do here? Because I think if some white people would read your book, I think a light bulb or two would go off and then in their own self-interest, not because they suddenly, you know, loved black and brown people in this country. But sadly, it’s too bad that that just wouldn’t be enough. But that way they would actually understand that, Oh man, I’m screwing myself.
Heather McGhee [00:29:41] Hmm.
Michael Moore [00:29:42] You know this and what you call the solidarity dividend. That if we all had this solidarity with each other, the dividend that that would pay, explain that to people listening to this.
Heather McGhee [00:29:54] Yeah. So I started to identify the zero sum and how much that was holding us back and how much the drained pool politics was really at the root of so many of the ways that our country has fallen down since the golden era of shared prosperity and the real sort of advent of the American dream. You know, I link it to our lack of health care, the college debt crisis, the decline in labor organizing and the strength of collective bargaining because racism is used as a tool by the bosses to divide workers by color. And then, however, I was also able to see how, because so many of the problems that I’ve been working on for so long have this sort of common thread of racial resentment, racism in our politics and policymaking. If we just pull on that common thread, progress will seem that much closer on all of these issues that otherwise seem kind of pretty complicated.
Heather McGhee [00:30:54] And so it became clear to me that the opposite of the zero-sum, the idea of people coming together across lines of race, having each other’s backs, the very old labor concept of solidarity. Your fight is my fight. No one fights alone, right? I’m going to believe you when you say that you are struggling with this problem and I’m going to link arms with you and we’re going to win together. And that’s going to help me and it’s going to help you. I think we can unlock those kinds of solidarity dividends across our economy. Basically, if white people stop seeing us as their enemy and their competition and recognize that we all do better when we all do better, and that the people who are making it harder for families to get ahead are not the Black and brown struggling families who have no power to do much, you know, in our lives that our community has no power to keep ourselves safe from the police, no power to avoid job discrimination and mortgage discrimination and all the things, environmental injustice and pollution, right?
Heather McGhee [00:32:00] All of the things that we are struggling with, in fact, if there is a more of a sense of solidarity, then we can have better things for all of us. The opening line in my book was: Have you ever wondered why we can’t seem to have nice things in America. I don’t mean like drive-thru espresso. I mean, nice things like child care and health care and well-funded schools and a reasonable response to global climate change. You know, these are the types of things that throughout the research for “The Sum Of Us.” I was able to see are actually possible if we can assemble and hold a multiracial cross class working and middle class coalition to refill the pool of public goods to take on concentrated wealth and power, to rebuild our country from the bottom up and it will be in the interest of all of us.
Heather McGhee [00:32:57] You know, you’ve now got all these, you know, Wall Street economists finally getting wise to the fact that the racial economic divide, having so many of our players on the sidelines saddled with debt and discrimination and disadvantage is actually bad for GDP, right? Shockingly, right, when you’ve got so many would-be entrepreneurs and would-be innovators and workers that can’t work, can’t build, can’t innovate because they’re being discriminated against and because they are living in neighborhoods that have been strategically disinvested for generations. That’s bad for the economy overall, so it’s costing us trillions of dollars a year to have the kind of economic divides that we do today.
Michael Moore [00:33:40] I think too again. I have thought since I was a kid that the way racism has worked and has kept Black and brown people at bay kept them down, kept them not able to participate in the system, what have we lost?
Heather McGhee [00:34:00] Hmm.
Michael Moore [00:34:01] What have we lost by, they weren’t able to go to a good school. They weren’t able to go to a college that had a real science lab. They weren’t able, that in my mind, maybe, I’m just creating a film about this in my head constantly that the person who was going to find a cure for cancer was never allowed to do that because they were Black and they couldn’t go to that school and they couldn’t get the breaks that the white kids got. But what if that person who was going to discover that, and when you look at, you know, thanks to Black History Month, now we’ve been taught how many inventions have come from Black men and women in this country. The list is long, and it’s amazing that we were never taught this in school.
Heather McGhee [00:34:54] Hmm. Yeah.
Michael Moore [00:34:56] And it only makes you think, what else have we missed out on?
Heather McGhee [00:35:00] That’s right. The touch tone telephone. The light bulb. The gas mask, the traffic light. Blood banks, the gas furnace. Open heart surgery. The math to enable the moon landing. These are all from…
Michael Moore [00:35:13] Don’t leave out peanut butter.
Heather McGhee [00:35:15] Yes, peanut butter. Street lights, right? You know this is really the idea, right, if you reject what has been the core old story in America, right, the belief in a hierarchy of human value that some groups of people are simply better than others, then the fact that we are a nation that is hurtling towards having no racial majority, that is a place where there’s someone here with a tie to every community on the globe, that can be our superpower. But if we hold on to these notions of white supremacy, if we let modern day justifications and excuses keep allowing white Americans to disdain, distrust, fear, Black and brown people then we’re never going to reach that potential, and we’re going to be a broken nation.
Michael Moore [00:36:16] And the nice things that we don’t have that so many other countries have, when we talk about health care, daycare, college, and a living wage. All these things that we don’t have. I saw this thing the other day that said a woman, mother, giving birth in the United States has a three times greater chance of dying during childbirth than a woman does in Turkmenistan.
Heather McGhee [00:36:47] Hmm.
Michael Moore [00:36:48] And I’m like, I had to read that again. OK. Is that right? Is that one of the Stans? You know, are you kidding me? And that and that if she lives in Cleveland or Detroit and there is a list of American cities that it was five times greater chance of dying of childbirth than in some of what we would consider to be some of the lesser, poorer countries on this planet. And it’s like, why? Why are we doing this to ourselves? You know, how did they get all the white people to fight and die in the Civil War when most of those dead white people on those battlefields never owned a slave? Why? Because they didn’t have $10 to their name.
Heather McGhee [00:37:32] Mm hmm.
Michael Moore [00:37:33] Let’s say they believed in slavery, they thought slavery was a good idea, well, they could never own one because the system was set up that the rich and the landowners were the ones that were going to have the slaves. And you were going to go out there to Gettysburg to wherever and give your life for the rich man who has sent you there. That’s when you just step back from that for a minute, it’s like, Why? Oh, why? What? Come on. At some point, don’t you realize that you’ve been had?
Heather McGhee [00:38:08] I mean, that is the question. You know, when I traveled to Mississippi to Canton, Mississippi, outside of Jackson, to talk with workers there who had just tried to organize a Nissan auto factory and had lost the union vote. I went down there, I’m from the Midwest, so I knew that it was sort of a no brainer to want a unionized manufacturing job, right? The big three unionized car jobs were the best jobs around when I was growing up on the south side of Chicago and so I felt like when I would talk to workers, it would be sort of clear that they’d have better pay, better pensions, better health care. They’d have, you know, a say in the terms of their employment and after the first day of talking to workers, white, Black for and against the union, I went home to my hotel.
Heather McGhee [00:39:06] And I just thought maybe I was wrong because what they described to me was this world in which they called it the Buddy Buddy system, which a mostly white management made it clear that the harder, more backbreaking on the line, dirtier, sweatier, more relentless jobs, were going to be all Black folks, men and women. And the further you got away from sort of, you know, automation of the line into that what they call the cushier jobs, one of the workers told me, you can tell when a job is so cush, because you don’t have to go home and take a shower before you go to the happy hour.
Michael Moore [00:39:46] Right.
Heather McGhee [00:39:47] But those jobs got whiter and whiter. The jobs that were temp contract jobs that were, you know, working side by side with people who were full-time but just, you know, had lower pay and less benefits and can be fired at any time. Those were more likely to be Black workers, and those Black workers also weren’t eligible to vote in the union. So I left that first day and I thought, well, maybe actually a union and its rules is actually not in the interest of white workers if they know that they can get ahead and get off the line and get a better job and get treated better by management if they play their cards right and part of that playing the cards right was not signing a union card, that their skin color would give them an advantage. And so maybe it actually was better for them and in their self-interest not to link up arms with these Black folks, right, who were having the crappier jobs. And then I had to remind myself the next morning, but none of them had a pension.
Michael Moore [00:40:49] So my dad was an assembly line worker at General Motors in Flint beginning in the late 1930s, and the Reuther brothers, once they took over the factories in Flint for those 44 days in 1936 and 1937 and got the union recognized, that in the 1940s, one of the priorities of the brothers who were the founders of the UAW United Auto Workers, was to integrate the assembly line. Very radical thought. But the thinking was already starting with and around Harry Truman in integrating the military. And, you know, some of the early places where integration was beginning. And so they did this. They made it part of their next contract.
Michael Moore [00:41:33] They threatened to strike. I think there was a strike that the hard and crummy, the worst jobs, were not to be all the Black citizens of Flint down on what was called the Foundry in the basement, the bowels of the factory. And that this was to be shared by everybody. And you may be rotating and you may have to spend your week or month or whatever in the Foundry, regardless of your color. And I’ll tell you what I grew up in a different kind of American city because our dads and moms, those worked, especially in the factory during World War II. They worked with people that were not like them.
Heather McGhee [00:42:15] Mm hmm.
Michael Moore [00:42:16] And it was hard for those in power to get you to hate them. Because when they’re your friend, when they’re working next to you on the assembly line, it’s a different ballgame. Because you realize they’re human beings.
Heather McGhee [00:42:29] Mm-Hmm.
Michael Moore [00:42:30] And they have kids and they want the same thing for their kids that you want for your kids. And so because of this integration that because we had a union, these are the benefits we got. Yes, you are going to now work with Black people and Hispanic people, whatever down the assembly line, here’s what you got in return from the union: free health care, I mean, free health care, no co-pays, no deductibles. Free dentist. Free lawyer. It was free if you were UAW member, free legal services for any kind of civil case, if you needed a lawyer. The lawyer was free. Four weeks paid vacation, plus the two weeks paid off at Christmas time. So really, six weeks of paid vacation. Those people who were not college graduates, who had working class jobs, but they had the weekend off and they learned a new word called vacation.
Michael Moore [00:43:31] A word that did not exist in the 19th century. And what you just said is true. That’s exactly, they understood the power of having that union and having an integrated union, because when you’re fighting General Motors, you want everybody on board, no matter what their color is, you’re not going to make that a requirement, whether or not you could be in the union. No, no, no. You need everybody on the front lines because they are coming at you with clubs and chains and everything else. I saw that and learned that. And the end of that story is that Flint became the first city in the country to elect a Black mayor before Stokes in Cleveland.
Heather McGhee [00:44:19] Mm-Hmm.
Michael Moore [00:44:20] In 1966. It was not a majority Black city then, so that means a good chunk of the white people had the vote and had the vote for the Black mayor, Floyd McCree. And that’s what I grew up in. And seeing that when racism was removed, everybody benefited. And you point this out so well in this book, I just wished that we’d known you growing up in Flint, because you have nailed this so beautifully. And how do we take this message? Because let’s face it, I mean, how many of our hundreds of thousands are listening to you and I right now, I’m going to guess the majority of them share our point of view on this and are asking the question: What can I do to convince my brother in law? What can I do? I can’t believe that my aunt said she voted for Trump.
Heather McGhee [00:45:20] Mm hmm.
Michael Moore [00:45:20] What can I do about this? Because if we can get over this hurdle together, then we’re going to have the country we want. We’re going to have the nice things that they have in Turkmenistan.
Heather McGhee [00:45:35] I shouldn’t laugh. I’m sure the Turkmenistani people are wonderful people. And their country does not have as much money as this one and yet somehow they’re treating their mommas better.
Michael Moore [00:45:45] Exactly. That’s, of course, and you laugh because you don’t want to cry, because really, you know, I mean, people on this planet have proven they can do just about any of this anywhere, and we can’t do it in the richest country on Earth. So how do we Heather, get this message across because, you know, a lot of people, I’m sure you’ve heard this in your travels and now with the book out, you’re talking to people, people are so afraid that Trump is going to come back. He hasn’t really gone away.
Michael Moore [00:46:17] You can see he still controls Congress today. How do you get these 62 members of the House last night to vote against the Asian Hate Crime Bill? Like, like what is wrong with you, people? What do we have to do? Because it seems like everybody’s got a Jim Jordan in their family.
Heather McGhee [00:46:43] Mm hmm.
Michael Moore [00:46:43] I mean I’m talking about white people. And so we have to make sure that we keep moving the ball down the field and we don’t go back to Trump. And that the seditionists, who wouldn’t recognize the votes of Georgia and Arizona have to be removed in next year’s election?
Heather McGhee [00:47:03] Yeah. Well, I mean, we have to organize, you know, I mean, that’s really the only thing that has ever durably changed consciousness, and you gave the example so beautifully of what the UAW was able to do with white workers. It is true that for most of the 20th century, you know, there’s a massive difference in your progressivism overall, if you’re a white man in a labor union versus not because of exactly that, because you’re shoulder to shoulder with people and you’re taught to see the enemy somewhere else then you know right next to you. You’re taught to understand that the boss has the power and you’re taught how poisonous the divide and conquer is. And so we have to organize. We have to pass the Pro Act because we’ve got to actually give more people the life changing experience of being in collective bargaining, ordinary people sitting across from the boss and saying, This is what our people demand. Ordinary people doing extraordinary things, making institutions palaces for the people as is happening all over New York and the Midwest.
Heather McGhee [00:48:15] We’ve got to give more regular folks the opportunity to have that kind of leadership and to have that kind of transformational experience of organizing. I talked to a young woman named Bridget, who’s from Kansas City, and she was a white woman. Irish descent. You know, admitted very, very readily to me that she had believed the kind of anti-immigrant anti-Black folk in the city ideas of her family and, you know, the media that she listened to. And it wasn’t until she went to her first organizing meeting of the Fight for 15 and a union which in Kansas City, the organization is called Stand Up KC. And she saw a Latina woman stand up and talk about her own life. Three kids, two bedroom apartment, bad plumbing, feeling trapped in her life that she had nowhere to go.
Heather McGhee [00:49:05] She was also a minimum wage fast food worker. Bridgette said, You know, I saw myself in her for the first time. And she began organizing. And not only did she organize and start to have relationships with Black and brown workers, but she also started to see a higher horizon for herself because before that, you know, she’d kind of really bought into not just the, you know, There’s something wrong with them, but if if we’re making the same amount of money, maybe there’s something wrong with me, right? Maybe, I will never see, you know, the poverty in my rearview mirror. You know, they’re never going to pay me $15 an hour. She told me that was what she was thinking. And yet it was through organizing that she became a leader, that she began to see how racism was, as she said, it was bad for white workers too, because it keeps us divided from our Black and brown brothers and sisters, she said. As long as we’re divided, we’re conquered, right? That’s the kind of consciousness change that comes from organizing.
Michael Moore [00:50:04] Yeah, that’s so true. And to people listening to this, you know, there are places that, well, I’ll put a couple up on my website here on the podcast website of where you can contact that will help, like you like to try to unionize your workplace. There are organizations, there are departments within most unions that are set up to help you do that. You know, you don’t have to say to yourself, I have no idea how I would do this. There are, trust me, there are already groups. If they’ve already formed in Kansas City, no offense to Kansas City, but my friends, you’re in Boise, they’re there, you’re in Topeka, they’re there.
Michael Moore [00:50:44] And I’ll put a couple up so you can just get started if you want to do that. And Heather, you referred to the Pro Act. There are a number of bills right now sitting in one House or the other and mostly piling up in the driveway leading up to the United States Senate. But there are things that we need to act on and act on now. And I think we all learned a lesson when President Obama was elected and he came in with a good heart, wanting to hold hands with everybody and get along and got crucified. And then he realized, Oh, that’s the way it’s going to be. And so we got maybe one big thing passed: Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act. It wasn’t everything that we wanted it to be.
Michael Moore [00:51:33] It wasn’t everything he wanted it to be. And and then it was, they had just decided, just like McConnell said a couple of weeks ago, if Biden wants it, we’re against it. That’s it. That’s just their policy. And so we now have the same thing happening again where they are going to try and blockade everything that’s going to help people. Basically, I’m not even referring to it as a democratic or Republican thing. It’s just some very cruel ideas on the part of the majority of the people in the United States Senate. That I mean, I should say the majority of Republicans. We hold the majority. Heather, what can we do about the filibuster? It seems like we have the Senate, and I think we should be moving as fast as possible to get as much done as possible. And I have been very impressed, very impressed with how fast Biden has shot out of the gate. But there’s a despair I get. I get this mail from people. They leave me voicemails. Oh, it’s rough to listen to. They are so afraid that we’re not going to get any of these things, even though we have the House, we have the Senate, and we have the White House. Why would we not be able to get these things?
Heather McGhee [00:52:51] You know, so many things that our country desperately needs are going to require a 60 vote threshold, which is not what the founders intended, which is not a majority. It’s a supermajority. It’s because there is a minority veto that is not the kind of talking filibuster that you imagine. Sort of Mr. Smith goes to Washington, somebody standing up there because they care so much. No. All they have to do is pick up a phone and call the Senate cloakroom and put a hold on a bill. And that never sees the light of day. That is not a representative democracy. These things that we’re talking about. The American Jobs Plan, reinvest in our infrastructure, create millions of jobs, rip up all the lead pipes in the country, and finally replace them. These are all parts of the American Jobs Plan, rural broadband, universal broadband across the country, so that everybody can get online.
Heather McGhee [00:53:46] You know, that’s overwhelmingly popular. It’s nearly 70 percent popular, the American Jobs Plan, the American Families Plan, what we were talking about: universal child care, paid family leave. Super popular. And yet we’ve got this delay that is happening because of a Jim Crow-era relic of a Senate rule known as the filibuster and other, you know, kind of tactics that are used to delay and to give the minority in the Senate a veto. It is completely within the power of the Democrats in Washington, in the Senate, including the moderate conservative Democrats like Joe Manchin from West Virginia, Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona to pass a reform to the filibuster to make it a talking filibuster.
Heather McGhee [00:54:32] So you actually have to put some skin in the game and make an effort to stop this country to take food out of people’s mouths, to stop a $15 minimum wage, to stop the Pro Act, which would increase the penalties for companies that violate workers rights and make it easier for folks to join a union. These are the kinds of things that are actually popular across the country. They would help us rebuild the middle class, and yet they’re being stopped because we’ve got a couple of Democrats who are misreading their voters, I have to say, right, we keep seeing all this polling about how $15 an hour is more popular than, you know, these Democrats in their own state. And we’ve got a Republican minority that thinks that it can win by rigging the rules, by killing progress in, you know, arcane Senate rules fights that nobody’s paying attention to.
Heather McGhee [00:55:27] And by throwing red meat, culture war, racial resentment stuff about Dr. Seuss at its base. And that’s why I talk about how racism in our politics has a cost for everyone. Because it is a vestige of structural racism, the Jim Crow relic of the filibuster. It was a tool that was really honed and made into what it is today by people opposing civil rights. And it is the Republican Party’s idea of themselves that they don’t have to govern. They don’t have to improve people’s lives because they’ve got Fox News. And all they need to do is point the finger at brown and Black people and immigrants and keep white folks distracted enough to keep voting against their own interests.
Michael Moore [00:56:10] So what do we do?
Heather McGhee [00:56:11] So we’ve got to organize. I mean, truly, that is it, you know. I’m a policy wonk. That’s what I did for nearly 20 years. And yet after the journey that I took to write “The Sum Of Us.” I was more enamored than ever with the transformative power of organizing, and we’ve been for the past five years in a high water moment of organizing, right? In 2016, one out of every four Americans had taken part in some kind of protest. In 2020, we had a summer with the biggest grassroots demonstrations in the history of the United States, most of them in majority white counties to assert that Black Lives Matter after the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. And so, you know, this is a moment of protesting, demonstrating we can’t stop.
Heather McGhee [00:57:02] We have to keep the pressure on the Democratic Party. We have to keep republicans fearing that this is going to be, that we are going to be showing up in the midterms and that we’re watching what they’re doing, they’re trying to do it in the dark of night. And we really, really do have to keep organizing for the America that we want. That multiracial coalition that is the majority in this country. That did, you know, elect Biden and Harris. That did do the impossible in Georgia, that is the multiracial majority in this country. And we’ve got to keep organizing and exercise our governing power.
Michael Moore [00:57:44] So that means part of the organizing is that we have to get everybody to the polls next year in the midterm elections.
Heather McGhee [00:57:54] Absolutely.
Michael Moore [00:57:55] Because otherwise this new math where 51 is not a majority, but it has to be 60. We’re just going to be stuck with this.
Heather McGhee [00:58:07] Mm-Hmm.
Michael Moore [00:58:07] And Joe Manchin’s not up for reelection till 2024.
Heather McGhee [00:58:11] Mm hmm.
Michael Moore [00:58:12] But I mean, I did an episode a week or two ago about Manchin and Sinema, and I just said, Look, just tell Biden what it is you want for your states. Ask for all the pork you want if in return we can just get your vote so we can get these things passed. I think everybody listening to me said, yes, whatever West Virginia wants. First of all, we want to help West Virginia anyway. So whatever West Virginia needs, fight for that. Get that for them. You hold the power. Yes, you do. You don’t like that. Too bad. You hold the power Joe Manchin. So meet with the president and tell him what he’s got to do to get your vote. There’s got to be something.
Michael Moore [00:58:51] You know, I don’t know. Isn’t that the old way of politics…Didn’t Lyndon Johnson just bring them in one by one and tell them they had their vote for the Civil Rights Act? And they said no, and he said, Yes, you’re going to vote for it and just give me one thing that you need. And he got these Democrats in the South to vote for the Civil Rights Act. But, you know, was that just another time? And we don’t live there anymore in that time and now we can’t have any horse trading or some, you know, old school politics of where we need their vote to get rid of the filibuster, the way it’s been the last couple of decades. I mean, I don’t know, you must have a lot of thought on this.
Heather McGhee [00:59:32] So I think it’s going to happen. I think that right now, Manchin is delusional about the kind of Republicans that exist, the kind of bipartisanship that can happen. I think Sinema is very well supported by the business lobby in her state. That’s her core constituency. That’s who organizes with her. That’s who has her ear. And so things like a $15 minimum wage are, you know, things that she’s going to be opposed to. And so she wants to, because they’re popular, the $15 minimum wage in Arizona, it’s better to say she wants to be bipartisan and talk about rules instead of saying, no, I just oppose a $15 minimum wage, right, the way the business lobby wants me to. But we’ve just, you know, there are a lot of grassroots organizations in both West Virginia and Arizona that are putting pressure on them, and that’s what we’ve got to do.
Michael Moore [01:00:30] And just keep putting the pressure on them. And you’re optimistic?
Heather McGhee [01:00:35] I am.
Michael Moore [01:00:35] That made my day. Thank you for saying that. I appreciate it. Well, listen, we are running out of time here, and I just want to thank you for writing this book. I want to encourage everybody listening to read it. It’s called “The Sum Of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone And How We Can Prosper Together.” Thank you for writing this book. What are you going to do next? What’s on the agenda here for you?
Heather McGhee [01:01:04] Well, I am actually going back on the road. I am going to go back on the road, to go back to some of the places I visited, where I was able to see that solidarity dividend, people coming together across lines of race to make something better for everyone. I’m going to record that in a podcast that’ll come out early next year with Obama’s production company, Higher Ground. It’ll be on Spotify. I’m so excited to visit with the people that shared their America with me for the book and find out, you know, how these past couple of years have been for them. Find new stories of people coming together to stand up for each other and have each other’s backs across lines of race during the pandemic, and keep showing that the America that we’re becoming is out there. And we’ve just got to shine a light.
Michael Moore [01:01:50] Thank you for saying that, and I thank you for everything that you’ve done in the years before this book. All the great work, all the facts and information that you provide for the rest of us so that we can go and make the argument, so we can go and make our documentary films. You know, you, whether you know it or not, have played an important role in what a lot of other people have done to try and move the ball down the field.
Heather McGhee [01:02:13] Thank you.
Michael Moore [01:02:13] So thank you, thank you for that, Heather McGhee. And thank you to all of you who’ve listened here today. Don’t forget to please watch Raoul Peck’s brand new documentary “Exterminate All The Brutes.” Have you seen this? Oh my God, if you haven’t, you got to.
Heather McGhee [01:02:33] Oh, it’s amazing. I’ve watched the first two parts and I’m going to finish it.
Michael Moore [01:02:37] Oh, you have, oh my god. Well, he’s going to be my guest next Friday. But I want everybody who’s going to listen, you’ve got to see this film first so you know what we’re talking about. Because it’s the most amazing documentary I’ve seen here recently. And his James Baldwin documentary was so great. So everybody, please, if you don’t have HBO, get a free trial for 30 days and watch this. You might have to go to HBO On demand or HBO Max, whatever. But watch this and then tune in at the end of next week here and I’ll have Raoul back on to talk about this.
Michael Moore [01:03:15] All right, everybody. We’ll see you here sometime around the beginning of the week. Until then, let’s do what we need to do to correct things, what’s going on in Israel and Palestine. Thanks for writing your letters to President Biden about that. And don’t forget to get your shot. And I’m still wearing my mask, folks. I’m double dosed and I believe that we’ve never seen this coronavirus before. We are all part of a grand experiment right now. We’re all guinea pigs in it and we’ve got to do some basic things just for a little while longer. Get your shots, wear your mask. And be careful. Thank you, everybody for listening. Thank you to our executive producer Basel Hamdan and our editor and sound engineer Nick Kwas. I’m Michael Moore, and this is Rumble.