The U.S. adds 288,000 jobs in April. That brings the unemployment rate down to 6.3 percent – the lowest in more than five years. The Department of Education for the first time releases a list of colleges and universities under investigation for allegedly mishandling sexual assault on campus. A day after the Senate blocks a hike in the federal minimum wage, Seattle’s mayor proposes to increase his city’s minimum wage to 15 dollars an hour. If passed, it would be among the highest in the nation. And Oklahoma issues a timeline of the botched execution of a death row inmate. A panel of journalists joins Diane to discuss this week’s top US news.
- Sheryl Gay Stolberg Washington correspondent, The New York Times.
- John Prideaux Washington correspondent, The Economist.
- Molly Ball Staff writer, The Atlantic.
Watch A Featured Clip
With the release of the most recent jobs report, some analysts are starting to wonder whether the job market will ever return to way it was before the recession.
It’s possible the recession sped up a structural change in the U.S. economy–one that hollows out the middle class, said John Prideaux, a correspondent for The Economist, on Diane Rehm’s weekly domestic news program.
What we’re seeing, he said, is more contract jobs and fewer full-time employment opportunities with things like sick leave and benefits, “something that is a bit worrying,” he said.
More worrying is that few people seem to be offering solutions, Prideaux said; most conversation has felt like the same “old political fight.”
Watch the full discussion below
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INTERVIEWERThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The unemployment rate drops to 6.3 percent. Senate Republicans block a vote to increase the federal minimum wage. And a botched execution in Oklahoma leads to new questions about the death penalty. Here to talk about the week's national news on the Friday News Roundup: Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times, John Prideaux of The Economist, and Molly Ball of The Atlantic.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd throughout the hour, we'll welcome you into the conversation. Join us by phone at 800-433-8850. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Welcome to Friday, everybody.
MS. MOLLY BALLThanks, Diane.
MS. SHERYL GAY STOLBERGGood morning.
MR. JOHN PRIDEAUXThanks, Diane.
REHMGood to see you all. Sheryl, the job numbers far surpassed everything people were predicting. Are we finally back on track?
STOLBERGWell, I don't have a crystal ball, but this jobs report is very, very good news. The economy picked up 288,000 jobs in April. This far surpassed what economists had predicted. And I looked at the numbers this morning, Diane, and I saw some really interesting things. Black men, whose unemployment rate has always been that of -- twice that of white men was 12.4 percent a year ago, now -- or 12.5 percent a year ago, now down to 10.4 percent.
STOLBERGYoung people, parents of young people who are looking for jobs will be interested to note that their unemployment rate, always been high, 20.9 percent a year ago, but down to 15.4 percent. So these are small slices of the economy. But the overall news does add up to some, you know, to a much brighter picture although, as we know, the GDP grew.
STOLBERGThat, you know, it's sort of contradicted by the GDP report...
STOLBERG...we had this week which showed very slow growth, 0.1 percent. So -- but I think overall this is certainly good news for the economy and for the Obama Administration.
REHMJohn Prideaux, what do you make of the two things coming together?
PRIDEAUXIt's hard to read. As you say, these two signals point in different directions. The GDP numbers were really bad. Essentially they showed that the economy didn't grow at all in the first quarter of the year. And...
PRIDEAUX.1, which is as close to zero as you get.
PRIDEAUXBut most people seem to be largely ignoring that, or at least taking it in their stride. Stock markets did very well yesterday. There's a consensus out there that the weather, you know, the bad winter storms affected the GDP numbers. And actually the Fed decided that it was going to reduce its program of bond buying which is, in some senses, a kind of show of faith in the economic recovery, so kind of bad GDP, but otherwise some good signals.
REHMSo the Fed chose correctly, Molly Ball.
BALLOh, I am certainly not someone who's qualified to tell the Fed what to do.
BALLQuite the opposite. But, you know, as John said, this is a sort of a vote of confidence in the continued sort of slow and steady recovery that we are seeing. And it is thought that the weather had a lot to do with the -- some of these numbers, that because the winter was so long and so severe, that that hampered the growth number and that there now may be quite a bit of pent-up demand.
BALLWe've seen good numbers for consumer spending, consumer demand because so much of it was suppressed over the winter. Speaking for myself, I went shopping less. I went on fewer, you know, weekend vacations because it sucked out there. (laughs)
REHMBut isn't it interesting that the greatest growth in the economy came in the health sector after people signed up for the Affordable Care Act?
STOLBERGWell, and I think that is not entirely surprising because when you cover more than 7 million additional people -- or at least we know that 7 million signed up for insurance. Some of them may have had insurance already. But, nonetheless, we are bringing more people into the healthcare system. So what does that mean?
STOLBERGThat means more people going to see doctors. That means more people getting referrals to specialists, taking care of long-term health problems that might have gone neglected for years, and so you're -- and more pharmaceutical sales, more prescriptions being written, so you're going to see, I think, that kind of growth in the health sector.
PRIDEAUXI think that's right. Just before we move off the economy, on the jobs, there was also a really interesting study this week that showed that the numbers of jobs that have been created in the low-wage sector since the end of the recession -- or at least the technical end of the recession, which came in 2009, really outstripped the numbers of jobs that have been created a bit higher up the value chain. That's rather gloomy news.
PRIDEAUXAnd it either shows that, well, you know, this recession as we knew was very tough, and the recovery is slow. And -- or some people take the view that this shows that there's something kind of structurally wrong with the way that capitalism is working in America that we -- there's this big shift and that the middle is being hollowed out. And we've got this kind of bifurcation between lots of creations -- sorry, creation of lots of kind of low-paying jobs at the bottom and people doing well at the top.
REHMAnd 'course that brings in to account the federal minimum wage which was, again, voted down this week. Molly.
BALLThat's right. It was a largely party-line vote in the Senate. Democrats voted to raise the minimum wage. Republicans voted against it. You had some Republicans complaining that they might be in favor of an increase in the federal minimum wage but not all the way to $10.10. And Democrats didn't want to negotiate, didn't want to compromise on that number, in part because this is as much a matter of political messaging for them as it is of policy.
REHMAhead of midterm elections.
BALLAhead of the midterm elections. You see this continued sort of holistic making of the economic case that even as the economy continues to slowly get better, even as the stock market climbs by leaps and bounds, people aren't making it. Even the people who are getting jobs aren't able to make it, and there's this continued conversation around economic inequality and the need for the federal government to do something about that.
REHMI had an email this morning from a woman whose husband is a teacher. He makes $36,000 a year. They have three children. The children get meals at school. She's on the WIC program. I mean, they're barely making it, exactly as you said. John.
PRIDEAUXYeah. I think there's a lot of this going on, you know, anecdotally. But also you look in the numbers, and there is something troubling. And we don't yet know, I'd suggest, whether there has been a structural shift or whether this is the aftereffects of what's been a really nasty and prolonged recession. Recessions caused by financial crises are always longer lasting, always more painful to recover from.
REHMBut at same time, the public overwhelmingly supports this raise in the minimum wage, Sheryl.
STOLBERGThat's exactly right. I think our latest poll showed a 62 percent roughly supported increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 per hour. I want to get back to that email that you got this morning. You know, this is actually an argument that proponents of increasing the minimum wage use. They say that it will in fact help the taxpayers because so many people who are minimum wage workers are taking advantage of other government programs, like, for instance, food stamps.
STOLBERGSo they argue that if we could lift the minimum wage and lift people out of poverty, we would take them off of federal aid programs. Now, Republicans, of course, argue the opposite. They say raising the minimum wage will be a job killer, that it will encourage businesses to, in fact, hire fewer people because each employee will be more expensive to hire, and they also say that -- why should we have a consistent minimum wage across the country when it costs so much less to live, say, in Wyoming than it does in Manhattan?
STOLBERGAnd you see some conservative Democrats, especially those who are in tough races, like Mark Pryor, feeling a little bit uneasy about raising the minimum wage. Pryor wasn't there for the Senate vote this week. But he's, I think, expressed unease about doing so.
REHMSo you've got the mayor of Seattle saying he wants to raise the minimum wage all the way to $15 an hour. That would make it one the highest in the country. Are we going to see -- well, Maryland has already raised its minimum wage. You've also got Connecticut. So are we going to see it done that way rather than federally? Molly.
BALLYeah. We already have seen that to a great extent. Many, many states -- possibly a majority of states have a state minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage. Whether it's pegged to a higher level -- so if the federal minimum wage goes up, it goes up, too. Or some of them have simply set a higher wage. And in the case of Seattle, if that ends up working, that would be a dramatically higher wage.
BALLAnd, you know, as Sheryl mentioned, there is a good policy argument for having these levels be different in different parts of the country although you can also make the argument that when it is a patchwork like that, it's too easy for some large employers to sort of have a race to the bottom effect and flee to the jurisdiction that offers them the best deal on low-wage workers.
BALLSo -- but this is something that, you know, activists have been working on. Particularly labor unions have worked on minimum wage initiatives for many years. I remember, back in 2006, there were many states, including Nevada, where it was on the ballot, and voters approved it that way. There was a ballot initiative in New Jersey last year where every -- a hike in the minimum wage was approved. So this is something where there's a lot of action on the state and local level. And given the, you know, inaction of the federal government, it looks like that's where the action will be.
REHMYou know, I was interested in a front page story in New York Times this morning speaking of New Jersey, that you've got big donors saying that if Jeb Bush runs and New Jersey's Gov. Christie also gets in, the big money folks are going to go with Jeb Bush.
STOLBERGYes. And I don't know if you saw George W. Bush interviewed on CNN this morning, saying, Jeb, go ahead and run. So…...
REHMGeorge W. said that?
STOLBERGHe did. So -- but, you know, I think this reflects a couple of things. First of all, Chris Christie, as we've discussed on this program before, has had his problems with the whole Bridge Gate. You know, his presidential aspirations are in doubt. This leaves Republicans really casting about for, you know, who is their next savior. Who is going to, you know, bring them back the White House in 2016? And looking around, Jeb Bush is starting to look pretty good although it would, of course, be a third Bush president. And everyone wants to know, is the country ready for that?
REHMAnd Barbara Bush had her doubts early on.
STOLBERGShe walked back from those doubts.
REHMNow she walked back.
STOLBERGBut we could have Bush-Clinton again. (laughs)
REHMIndeed. All right. Back in just a few seconds after a short break. Stay with us.
REHMAnd welcome back to the national hour of our Friday News Roundup this week with: Molly Ball of The Atlantic, John Prideaux of The Economist, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times. There's been a lot of talk this week about sexual assault. White House task force got into talking about sexual assault on college campuses and released recommendations. How come this issue, Molly Ball, got the attention of those in the White House?
BALLWell, this is an issue that I think we've seen increased awareness of nationally increased dialogue around a lot of activism on campuses related to it. And, you know, from a political standpoint, it's of a piece with this messaging that the White House and the Democrats have been doing around women's issues and around women's rights, whether it's equal pay or reproductive rights or this.
BALLYou know, there's been a major effort on the part of the administration and the Democrats in Congress to send the message that they are the party that looks out for women. And that's -- particularly younger women are a crucial voting bloc that Democrats need to get out to vote in this midterm year if they're going to be successful.
REHMAnd even in the Congress, there is going to be some, what, meetings to refresh members' minds about what constitutes sexual assault or harassment.
BALLRight. And I actually want to make two points about this. One, I think this is what happens when women get elected to public office. And you're seeing on Capitol Hill two women in particular, Senators Gillibrand of New York and McCaskill of Missouri, partnering on this issue after both working on the issue of sexual assault in the military, although in opposite ways.
BALLThey put forth competing bills, but now they are working together. And I really do believe that as more and more women get elected and put in public office and put in high positions, women's issues -- and sexual assault, of course, involves both sexes but we often focus on women -- women's issues will become more predominant. And I...
REHMAnd now the Education Department has gotten into it with a new study showing at least 55 schools under investigation for mishandling sexual assault cases, including some of the big Ivy League schools.
PRIDEAUXThat's right. There's obviously a lot of mishandling. There's a lot of -- there's a lack of enforcement it seems where there are cases that need enforcing. One of the things that I think is difficult about this issue is we don't have a good handle in the extent of it. The White House used this number in its press conference. One in five women are sexually assaulted while they're in college.
PRIDEAUXAnd that may be the best guess out there, but I think it is a guess. It seems to be based on a online poll of seniors to public universities in America. So we don't really know how big the problem is partly because it's underreported. And though I'd be interested to know what -- Sheryl, I know you have a daughter at college.
STOLBERGI was going to say, I want to put on my -- you know, take off my reporter hat a little bit and put on my parent-of-a-college-sophomore hat. So I do have a college sophomore. And I was very struck when she started school. At her school, they had an awareness training in her dorm for sexual assault where they did role playing with the girl -- or young men and young women trying to reinforce the message that no always means no, raising questions about when a woman can consent. Can a woman consent when she's drunk?
STOLBERGAnd still, at the end of that year, one of my daughter's friends had left school because she had been raped and felt uncomfortable reporting it. It was one of these sort of date rape situations, and she didn't feel right about reporting it. She simply withdrew and went to another school. And on her dorm, a resident assistant was accused of sexual assault involving another woman.
STOLBERGSo schools, I think, across the country are grappling with this, some, as the White House clearly indicated this week, not grappling with it heavily enough. But I think I have to say, as a parent, I applaud the public awareness over this issue. And you better believe, I looked at that list that was released by the White House yesterday to see if my daughter's school was on it, and it was not.
REHMWell, it's probably true that, in a smaller or greater degree, there is some sexual harassment going on at every institution we can imagine.
STOLBERGAnd throughout society...
STOLBERG…I mean, in the military, in the workplace. This is not confined to college campuses.
REHMExactly. But these young women really do have to have courage to come forward because, John, as you said, many -- an example you've just given -- many are afraid, or they don't want to go public because they feel they'll be shamed. Or on the other hand, if they don't report and stay at the same institution, they may meet their rapist right there in class.
STOLBERGYeah, well, you know, and this list is not a list of the schools that have the highest rates or incidences of sexual assault. It's the schools that are not handling it correctly. And this is a really difficult area for colleges, you know. Colleges have traditionally handled a lot of these alleged assaults as disciplinary matters. When, you know, rape is a crime, and they have got to -- there have to be mechanisms for, you know, working with the police and actually punishing and prosecuting the perpetrator as well.
BALLAlso, you know, respecting the rights of the victims and of everybody involved, it's a very difficult issue for schools. And obviously there are a lot of them that are -- that still haven't gotten the message about how these things need to be handled.
PRIDEAUXI think you might be able to draw an analogy here with the Catholic Church and the programs it's had with sexual assault perpetrated by members of its own clergy. And there, you know, the culture -- part of the problem has been a culture of wanting to help everyone involved, including the accused and so on. And I think, as Molly hints, you know, the answer to this is probably to call the police and the professionals that deal with these sorts of things rather than handle them, you know, internally as disciplinary matters. Colleges should call the police in.
REHMAt the same time, the White House offered some recommendations. Colleges should learn about what's happening on campus through systematic surveys. They should promote bystander intervention, which I thought was a very, very interesting rule to put out there because how many times are others standing around parties who may not want to participate in any kind of activity but are afraid to get involved themselves?
BALLRight. And, you know, some schools have been leaders in this. The University of Kentucky, for instance, has been a leader in promoting bystander intervention. And I was noodling around on the web today, and I noticed that they have something called a green dot app. They actually have a smartphone app that connects people to one another to talk about how to intervene, how to -- instead of just being a silent witness, to how to speak up.
BALLAnd, you know, these are -- you can train people to intervene and to be, you know, active -- to actively discourage sexual assault. That's what Kentucky has been doing and the White House is recommending, that other schools follow these kinds of programs.
REHMExactly. Well, let's hope that we see that rate decline. And a horrific story out of Oklahoma this week, John Prideaux, a botched execution of a convicted murderer. Talk about what went wrong.
PRIDEAUXWell, yes. This is the botched execution of Clayton Lockett who was sentenced to death and put to death by a lethal injection. It took 25 minutes for him to die. He eventually had a massive heart attack. And to understand what's been going on here, you really need to rewind a little while. There's a particular anesthetic that most American correctional facilities that, you know, kind of practice the death penalty have used.
PRIDEAUXAn American manufacturer stopped making that in 2011, I think. Since then, some have tried to import drugs from various European pharmaceutical companies who said, hang on, you know, we do not want anesthetics being used for this purpose, and we'll stop supplying American hospitals with it.
REHMWhy did the American companies stop supplying this?
PRIDEAUXI think there's some pressure from shareholders. I think it's not great PR. And, you know, most companies producing this stuff want it used in hospitals, you know, as an anesthetic and not the death penalty.
REHMSo we thought we could go outside.
PRIDEAUXThat's right. So then, you know, there was this move to go outside, but then that didn't work. And so now what's happening is that some states have had to come up with their own cocktails of drugs, untested in many cases. And it turns out that it's actually quite difficult to kill somebody sort of instantaneously and painlessly -- or apparently painlessly.
PRIDEAUXAnd I think that's one of the things that the death penalty -- sort of support for the death penalty relies on. It's got to look like you're sort of putting somebody to sleep. And it's bad for those who support the death penalty if it does look like a kind of cruel and unusual punishment as Clayton Lockett's did. And it's not an isolated case. There's a case in Ohio quite recently where a man again took 25 minutes to die and so on. So this is very interesting, I think.
BALLThere was a chilling quote in The Washington Post from an expert on anesthesiology who said, "If I were going to be executed, I would choose a firing squad" because, as John said, there -- it isn't as easy as just putting someone to sleep. And that's something we're increasingly learning. This has also been a strategy on the part of people opposed to the death penalty, a litigation strategy to go after the drugs as a way of stopping executions.
BALLAnd so proponents of the death penalty have decried this as essentially disingenuous, that the people bringing these lawsuits, they're not really trying to make executions more humane. They're trying to stop executions. Be that as it may, you know, the circumstances of this execution were so chilling. You know, there were reporters who witnessed it. And the drugs went in, and then the inmate in question seemed to try to get up off the gurney.
BALLHe lifted his head. He could be heard muttering, speaking. And then the curtain was drawn. And then they were later told that he had had this massive heart attack. And there are questions about the vein. This has completely convulsed the political system in Oklahoma. You had the governor threatening to defy a state Supreme Court order, the legislature trying to impeach en masse the entire state Supreme Court for having made a decision against these drugs.
BALLThe drug cocktail in question is not only untested. It's secret. They have refused to disclose what drugs they're using, although the experts have speculated. So there are all kinds of complications and legal questions surrounding this case.
REHMYou know, it seems remarkable that, for all these years, we've been able to put our beloved pets to sleep without pain. What is it now that's happening, Sheryl?
STOLBERGBoy, that's a -- you know, that's really a great question. I've never thought of it that way. But I would say this. There's a few points to be made here. One, most anesthesiologists don't want to have anything to do with lethal execution. Doctors don't want to have anything to do with it. So you might have a veterinarian who feels it's humane to put an animal to death. That is not the case for doctors. The Anesthesiologist Professional Association has said it will discipline doctors who -- its members who participate in lethal executions. So that's one...
REHMSo who participated?
STOLBERGRight. So -- well...
REHMWe don't know.
STOLBERGRight. And so that's one thing. The other thing -- lethal injection was introduced to be more humane than hanging. Obviously, there are serious questions about that now. So if you have a situation in which the death penalty starts to look like a science experiment, you're going to erode public support. And we're already seeing that happen.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." So, to John's point, do you think this is, again, going to raise the discussion of the death penalty?
STOLBERGI absolutely do. We already know that, in the 1990s, 80 percent of Americans supported the death penalty. Today, 60 percent of Americans do, so the numbers are dropping. Executions are actually already down. I was looking at some figures today. Even if all the executions scheduled for this year were carried out, it would be a total of 33. It would be the lowest since 1994, and it would've fallen by two-thirds from the peak of 98 executions in 1999. So already there are fewer executions for a number of reasons, not least of which is that violent crime is also declining.
STOLBERGBut I do think this is obviously going to spark a rethinking because, if you can't get appropriate drugs or people don't know where the drugs are coming from, doctors don't want to participate. At the very least, it will spark a rethinking of lethal injection. I certainly don't -- can't think of any states who are going to start putting people to death by firing squad, but...
BALLI believe there are states today that have a firing squad.
STOLBERGAre there states that are putting to death by firing squad?
BALLYeah. And there's at least one state that still allows hanging.
STOLBERGAll right. I stand corrected. Thank you, Molly.
BALLI don't know if they've actually done it lately, but I think it's on the books. But, look, you know, 60 percent is still pretty overwhelming public support. Let's not forget that the overwhelming majority of Americans do still support the death penalty.
STOLBERGAnd President Obama does in certain circumstances. He has...
BALLAnd in a way, this feels like sort of a hangover of the '80s and '90s politics of crime when being tough on crime was such a political imperative and crime was very high. Americans had a much greater consciousness of crime because there was more of it, and people were afraid to go out on the street in a lot of big cities. That's not the case anymore.
BALLYou know, New York City, city of 8 million people had, I believe, fewer than 400 murders last year. I mean, there's just been a phenomenal decrease in crime in this country. And I think that has meant that crime is less of a top-of-mind political issue, and that has meant that fewer people see the need to -- for the death penalty.
BALLSo the politics of it have changed.
REHMLet's talk about the NBA and commissioner Adam Sterling's (sic) ban on the owner of the Clippers. There's been widespread praise for Adam Sterling.
REHMBut here -- sorry, Adam Silver. While it is -- here's an email from Marilyn -- sorry, from Marvin -- now I really am getting confused -- says, "While it's clear that Clippers owner Sterling is personally a bigot and deserves derision, I do not see the validity of or legality of his punishment. He's not discriminated in the workplace. There are no accusations of any wrongdoings in his dealings with black or minority employees. Since when are stupid thoughts or comments punishable?
REHM"Unless the NBA can show he's discriminated in his management, his personal thoughts and private communications should not be in their purview. And the league or the government has no right to punish him for his thoughts, no matter how stupid or offensive they were." And now, dear friends, we're going to take a short break. And when we come back, we're going to talk about that email and your thoughts on what has happened here in terms of the L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling. Stay with us.
REHMAnd before we open the phones, of course I'm going to ask your thoughts on Clippers owner Sterling.
STOLBERGSo my quick thoughts are in response to the -- your email that the writer is correct that the government might not be able to do anything. But the NBA is a private association. It's a private club, and they can determine who its members are and who they aren't. And if it wants to throw Donald Sterling out, I suppose they can try to do so.
STOLBERGI think it might be poetic justice if Magic Johnson, who was in the photograph with the young woman that sparked the racist comments by Donald Sterling, wound up being the owner of the Clippers. And I saw Magic Johnson was asked. He keeps saying, no, no, no, I'm not, you know, I'm not interested. I'm not interested. And then he was asked again, and he said, well, I keep saying no, but we'll see.
BALLWell, I think that's a really good point that we shouldn't conflate the NBA with the government somehow taking action here. The government has not been involved in this. And the NBA, unlike Major League Baseball, doesn't even have antitrust exemption that would enable the government to regulate it. That's always the excuse for how they regulate baseball. Also, the emailer also said there's not been any allegations that he actually treated people differently because of their race, people in his employ.
BALLBut that -- but one of the interesting things about this has been all of the things that we've learned in the course of the story about Donald Sterling's behavior that have actually been public for decades. There have been a lot of allegations that he treated people in his employ extremely shabbily based on their race. There have been numerous complaints over the years, and there were also an allegation that he discriminated in his rental housing against minorities. And I believe he paid a large settlement for that. So...
REHMAnd he was about to get this big award from the chapter of the NAACP whose president…
BALLWhose chief resigned.
REHM...has now resigned. And, John Prideaux, your thoughts.
PRIDEAUXMy thoughts, I would really like to know what's going on inside the head of Donald Sterling. I mean, this is a man who's born in 1934, I think. So he must have been around 30 at the time the Civil Rights Act was passed. He's also Jewish. It seems to me highly bizarre that somebody with that background could sort of think these thoughts and say these things about, you know, African Americans. And so, I would love, you know, sort of Philip Roth or somebody to peer into his head and tell us what's going on in this sort of strange world of his.
REHMAnd his female friend has been getting lots of attention. How did she come by recording these conversations?
STOLBERGWell, so that's the big question. Her lawyer say that she was recording these conversations as his archivist, that he had permission -- he had given her permission to record them. His wife says that she is Donald Sterling's mistress. Her name is V. Stiviano. And certainly they sounded intimate in the recordings. But I guess I have questions about why are we having -- we're paying so much attention to her and who she is.
STOLBERGI heard some talk show yesterday saying, you know, "V. Stiviano, hero or ho?" And I thought, why are we really focusing on her behavior? You can maybe raise questions about whether this recording should have been released. And she insists that she was not the one to release it although we don't know who gave it to TMZ. But let's talk, as John said, about Donald Sterling.
STOLBERGThis is a man who owns a baseball team -- or a basketball team in a league that is three-quarters African American. The players are three-fourths black. How can you be expressing these opinions or even having these opinions in this business? I don't get it.
BALLAnd I think the overwhelming amount of attention has been on Sterling, has been his attitudes. And as a private consortium, you know, the NBA has an interest in its employees and its customers. You know, and African Americans are its employees, and African Americans are its customers. And that clearly is the reason that the league saw a mandate to take bold and aggressive action.
BALLAnd Commissioner Silver is being widely lauded for the toughness of his response and the immediacy of his response. But there are some critics who are saying, as I mentioned before, that, look, we've known who Donald Sterling is and what he's like and what his attitudes are for a long time now.
BALLThis is what it took to get you to act, these sort of relatively less consequential abhorrent, you know, remarks in a private setting? Be that as it may, the league has now acted, and it does seem inevitable that there will be litigation. So to the emailer's point about, is this legal, that's something that the court will have to decide.
REHMAll right. I thought Timothy Egan's op-ed piece in The New York Times today was interesting. He argues sports is sometimes way ahead of political leaders, he says, in issuing the sports equivalent of the death penalty, lifetime ban, probable force sale of his franchise to Donald Sterling. The NBA showed every other institution that courage is more commendable than dithering.
REHMThere is more progress on the hardwood courts between the chalk lines and on the base pads of our games than in the halls of power. Now the question becomes, is Dan Snyder ever going to change the name of the Washington football team? I won't ask you that. Let's go to the phones now, 800-433-8850, to Scott in Miami, Fla. You're on the air.
SCOTTHi, Diane. It's such an honor to speak with you.
SCOTTI have a question about the jobs report that you covered earlier in the hour.
SCOTTThese reports have been coming out all the time that show growth, but the growth is always too modest for anyone to get excited about. Now, when I look around, I see a whole bunch of automated technology where there used to be people with jobs. Toll booths are a thing of the past. Video rental stores are gone. They have kiosks. I was checking into a hotel the other day, and the front desk agent actually recommended that I instead use the machine to check in that could one day put them out of a job.
SCOTTBut I'm wondering, with all of these automated technologies, are we really ever going to be able to see the employment picture look the way that it used to? Or is it the new normal?
STOLBERGI think a lot of economists are concerned that this in fact is the new normal and that we will not ever really recover to a point where we were before the Great Recession and that, you know, unless we see really sustained jobs reports like this one over a long period of time, we are not, sadly, going back to where we were.
PRIDEAUXWe had versions of this debate before when mechanization came along during the Industrial Revolution. Lots of people were worried that large numbers of, you know, citizens and lots of countries would no longer have any work and they'd be in real trouble, wouldn't be able to feed their families. In that case, it turned out that those, you know, people who worried about that, the concerns were largely misplaced.
PRIDEAUXThis time, as Sheryl says, there are lots of serious economists who are really worried about this. I mean, it's amazing the extent to which things can be automated these days. So I would have to say that I think we don't know the answer to your question yet. Another thing I'd say is that while the job creation numbers are quite good, there's also a kind of really worrying trend, which is very bad for America, which is the shrinking of workforce, so people kind of dropping out of the labor market altogether who don't show up in unemployment reports.
PRIDEAUXThat's something concerning.
REHMTo Framingham, Mass. Hi, Judith.
JUDITHHello. Thank you for taking my call on your show.
JUDITHI'm calling about the so-called botched execution in Oklahoma. I'm absolutely against the death penalty. So I want to say that before my words are misconstrued. But it just gets me aggravated every time people get up in arms about the way an execution is carried out. I believe that state-sponsored killing could never be civil, doesn't matter you kill people, whether it's painless or not. The fact is that the state is deciding to kill people. And so I think when -- I don't understand when people get upset about it considering the fact that they believe in the death penalty. That is all.
REHMAll right. Thanks for your call. Molly?
BALLWell, the Constitution does make a distinction. The Constitution says you can't have cruel or unusual punishment. And so, you know, this country was founded on a belief that you can punish people, but you can't torture them. And as a country, we've decided to have a death penalty until further notice, and most people support that. But there is a clear and legal distinction in our founding document between punishment that is acceptable -- and, you know, in any civil society, there has to be some way to punish perpetrators of crimes. And then there are punishments that are not acceptable. So...
REHMI think, clearly, this incident does bring the issue to the foreground again, and there will be debate over it.
BALLWell, there are going to be some people, like the caller...
BALL...who will not find any method of execution acceptable. I think this is -- and this has reopened that debate for sure.
BALLBut there is -- but the issue at hand is not, are we or aren't we going to have a death penalty? It's, if we are going to have a death penalty, can we not have horrifying things like this happen?
REHMAl right. To Chris in Hollywood, Fla. You're on the air.
CHRISHi, Diane. I enjoy your show.
REHMThank you, Chris.
CHRISI'm going to talk about the economy.
CHRISAnd one of your callers mentioned mechanization. But I work in an industry, and I work for a company, FedEx. I worked for FedEx (unintelligible) the corporation from 1993 until 2008 when I left. I had seven weeks paid time off. I made $22.50 an hour, and I had full medical benefits which weren't at a high cost. Now, because everybody's desperate, I have gone back to work for FedEx home delivery, which is run by an independent contractor.
CHRISI make $750 a week, no paid time off, no sick days, no benefits, no nothing. What I'm getting at that this privatization model and this independent contractor model is a direct attempt to drive my wages down. I make less money than I made in 1998. And just one point -- I make about $15,000 less, $10- to $15,000 less.
CHRISOne other point is the United States Postal Service is the most efficient delivery service. And I've been in the transportation industry for almost 20 years. And there have been attempts by criminals within Congress, Darrell Issa among others and the right wing of the Republican Party, to get rid of those jobs. Now they want to move -- they want to sell stamps out of Staples and...
REHMOK. Now, the one thing I'd really appreciate you're not doing is creating ad hominem comments against individual members of Congress or the president. I would appreciate that. Your comments, John.
PRIDEAUXWell, I think this speaks to one of the things we were talking about at the top of the hour. Is there some structural change that's going on in the American economy that's been sped up by this recession?
PRIDEAUXThat means that the middle is being hallowed out, and we're seeing more stories like Chris in Florida. There is a pronounced trend at the moment towards people working on the kind of contract rather than as employees with benefits and so on. You see this in industry after industry from, you know, kind of cheerleaders to truckers. And I think that's something that is a bit worrying.
PRIDEAUXAnd I think what worries me more about this is I don't think there's a huge amount of serious debate what sorts of things we might be able to do to remedy and to make sure that people's standards of living continue to rise. We seem to be stuck in a kind of old political fight that's been going on at least since the 1980s or perhaps before. And it seems to me that people aren't talking about, you know, or aren't proposing solutions to these sorts of things.
REHMYou know, the question you raised earlier about the Industrial Revolution and how long it took to catch up, I would see -- I mean, people are saying we've got a lost generation here. And it may be that they were saying the same thing back then, and the same may be true here.
PRIDEAUXWell, what's true is that lots of people did lose their jobs during the Industrial Revolution...
PRIDEAUX...and were replaced by machines. And that was extremely tough for lots of people. In aggregate, you know, it worked out pretty well. Standards of living rose, and all sorts of jobs that people couldn't have imagined in the pre-industrial age suddenly appeared. And I tend to take a kind of more optimistic view and think that it's not something that's kind of fundamentally broken. But I have to say, even if you're an optimist like me, you look at these numbers, and you'd have to wonder.
REHMAll right. And you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Let's hear from Herb who's in Cleveland, Ohio. You're on the air.
HERBI love your show.
HERBI've been listening to it a long time, so much so -- all the subjects you talk about -- the people that get on your show, they're logical. It's very frustrating to listen to you for a couple hours, listening to your panel, everybody makes sense. And then suddenly you guys get off the air, I got to deal with the real world.
HERBIt's like, it would be nice that maybe you could have some CEOs on your -- where we could call them up and ask some questions 'cause it's frustrating that you do a good job, panel does good job. All of a sudden, we're left, after we get off the line, and we want to do something. And so I would feel great if you can get some CEOs. I just want to make one last comment.
HERBYou were talking about the minimum wage going up -- just an observation. It just seems strange that everybody in Congress -- most of them are millionaires, don't want to give up 10 bucks. And then the CEOs saying we'll go broke if we raise it. And these CEOs -- I thought I heard years ago they were making 10, 20 times as much as a regular person. It just seems strange that the richest people don't want to give the littlest amount to buy what they sell.
REHMAnd now the CEOs are making something like 250 times what their employees are making.
STOLBERGRight. You know, I think that this caller is actually giving voice to the entire Democratic political argument for this year. The whole income inequality argument that President Obama is making, the argument that the gap between rich and poor is widening. His frustration with CEOs, his desire to want to just be able to ask a CEO, you know, why are you making so much money?
STOLBERGAnd how come my job is being contracted out, as the previous caller said. This is exactly what Democrats want to tap into in raising this minimum wage argument. And we are going to see Democrats pushing the minimum wage bill over and over again because they want to have this argument. They want to give voice to feelings like those expressed by this caller.
REHMBut feelings may not make as much difference as money does.
STOLBERGWell, that is true.
REHMIn the forthcoming elections, I mean, really, it's just going to be money, money, money instead of good ideas, thoughtful discussion. That's what scares me, John.
PRIDEAUXThere is going to be a lot of money. That's true. We're already seeing that. We're seeing a lot of money from organizations that don't disclose where it comes from, which I think is a worrying trend in American politics. You know, if you look at -- if you plot it on a chart, it just heads skywards at a remarkable rate. Just to your caller's point about CEOs, I mean, some of the -- I talked to some CEOs for my, you know, in the course of my job.
PRIDEAUXAnd actually I often find they're as worried as some of these trends as some of the callers are. You know, they have customers, and they worry about, you know, manufacturing capacity heading off to China or wherever. They're also under extraordinary kind of competitive pressure to make sure their companies are kind of more profitable than they were in the last quarter. And what interests me is that they often seem to feel as kind of powerless as everyone else when confronted with these things.
REHMThey don't look as though they are powerless. John Prideaux of The Economist, Molly Ball of The Atlantic, Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times, thank you all. Have a great weekend.
STOLBERGThank you, Diane.
REHMThanks for listening. I'm Diane Rehm.
ANNOUNCER"The Diane Rehm Show" is produced by Sandra Pinkard, Denise Couture, Susan Casey Nabors, Rebecca Kaufman, Lisa Dunn, Danielle Knight and Allison Brody. The engineer is Erin Stamper. Natalie Yuravlivker answers the phones.