Sunday, September 18, 2005

Transcript Of Congressman Harold Ford's Interview With CNN's "In The Money"

On Saturday evening Congressman Harold Ford appeared on CNN's "In The Money".

While on the show Congressman Ford addressed several important issues, including poverty in America.

Below is the transcript of In The Money's interview with Congressman Harold Ford:

Joining us from Washington is Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., Democrat from Tennessee. Welcome Congressman. January 8th, 1964, Lyndon Baines Johnson, his State of the Union Address, declared, the administration, here, now, declares unconditional war on poverty in America. Is it time to revive that fight, or have we simply not -- do we need to start it again?

CONGRESSMAN HAROLD FORD, JR., (D) TENNESSEE: We certainly need some new ideas strategies and a new charge. LBJ, and even before that, FDR, Franklin Delano Roosevelt were able to use the force of government, partnering with business, to try to make a difference in people's live. I think Katrina has exposed an ugly reality that over the last several years, we've seen more than 1 million people added to the poverty ranks.

Even after welfare reform.

We've seen, since 1999, the bottom one-fifth of Americans earning less than -- I should say income decreasing by some 10 percent, or almost 10 percent. And even as you look at world numbers you find the 500 wealthiest people in the world, their income last year was larger last year than the 416 million poorest people in the world.

I'm not an advocate for government just pouring money and spending money and giving money to people. But I am an advocate for us to figure out ways to make public institutions like schools work better, to provide better saving instruments and vehicles and investment vehicles for middle class and poor families in this country.

We do a lot for people who earn $300,000 a year or more in terms of investment and savings incentives. But we do very little to offer those who earn $30,000 or $40,000 a year, to help encourage them to save and to invest for the future. Hopefully this will provoke a new wave of thinking and a breakout, kind of innovation, as it relates to how government can help battle poverty. More importantly, lift people to a new level and to a higher level economically.

CAFFERTY: In terms of the kind of thinking that goes on in the country, on the subject of poverty, let me get your reaction to something that Barbara Bush said in the wake of the Katrina hurricane. I quote here, "So many of these people here were underprivileged anyway. So this is working very well for them." Referring to people who lost their homes, their cars, their clothing, all their possession, maybe members of their family, and were eventually, after a weekend hell in New Orleans, transported to the Astrodome in Houston, Texas where they were stuffed on to cots that were, you know touching each other all across the floor of the Astrodome.

Some of them wonders whether their pets lived, where their kids were, whether their spouse or other members of their family survived. And we get the comment out of the former first lady of United States, "This is working well for them." What does that say about the state of mind in this country, when you talk about the poor?

FORD: You know, I'm not in the business of criticizing grandmothers, but I do think that her comments are indicative and representative of a lot of people in that class in our country. These people are Americans. And they were uprooted, through no fault of their own. By the grace of god, my city, Memphis, was not hit and affected by it, as New Orleans and other folks who live along that coast.

I think the question now is, how do we react, how do we respond? I don't know what was in Mrs. Bush's head, but her comments were way off base and completely out of line. That being said, poor people in this country, in working people in this country, deserve the same breaks as anyone else in this country does. They deserve to have good schools for their kid and hospitals that work and frankly a government that will respond when a disaster hits their area.

LISOVICZ: Congressman, but what -- certainly, everyone agrees that job creation is one of the most important keys to escaping poverty. There is an opportunity right now in the Gulf with some of the poorest states in the nation. Do you like what you're seeing so far? We're not talking about the immediate aftermath of the hurricane but now, with the relief projects that -- the people that have come into the area, are you encouraged by what you see? Give us the status report there.

FORD: Sure, thanks for the question. One of your segments I think talked about where's the Red Cross money going and other money. It's a good question. I think the same question should be posed to the government.

The $62 billion we've spent, we have to ensure that it's going to reach families that is going to help people find new lives, whether it's through job training or being able to buy a new home and start a new life. We need some kind of czar to ensure that money's being spent right.

Number two, there's no doubt job training and skill development is the key to America's future. As we find ourselves being surpassed on the global level by India and China on so many fronts. And as we find them graduating smarter entrepreneurs and workers, we have to focus on public institutes in our own nation.

I can only hope that the schools in New Orleans and in cities and in rural areas across the country, that the hospitals in these areas, that the job training for current workers and settings all across this country that we will reevaluate these efforts. And again it's going to take some new and creative and in some instances fundamentally radical thinking on some of these parts.

LISOVICZ: And we will certainly be following it. And I know that you will be speaking out it frequently. Congressman Harold Ford, Democrat of Tennessee. Thanks so much for joining us.

FORD: Thanks for having me.