Raw footage for the award-winning series THE 90's. Eddie Tape #87. This tape features interviews with Nicholas Lenssen, James Weill, and Steve Entin about issues facing the next generation.
00:00Copy video clip URL Interview with Nicholas “Nick” Lenssen, Research Associate at the World Watch Institute in Washington, DC. “I focus on energy policy, energy technology, and nuclear waste issues.”
00:24Copy video clip URL He says the key events that lead to his environmental consciousness include the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the resulting oil embargo. He notes that he grew up in New Mexico, which was targeted as being a place for uranium mines, coal mines, and power plants. As a boy growing up on the family farm he recalls at that time questioning what would happen if his natural way of life was threatened. The 1979 Three Mile Island accident and the 1986 disaster at Chernobyl also influenced him.
03:16Copy video clip URL He notes that the Chernobyl accident proved that nuclear power cannot be an energy source for the future. He talks about local energy problems: air pollution, water contamination, acid rain and its environmental damage. He notes that when scientists first suggested the Earth’s ozone could be affected they were scoffed at. But it was proved years later that the ozone was affected.
05:14Copy video clip URL He says that global warming is the biggest environmental threat we face. He talks about what it is and what causes it.
07:11Copy video clip URL Lenssen says he was 13 in 1973 when the Arab-Israeli War started. He says his generation will not have the flow of materials and consumer goods in the future. There will be limits and those limits are being addressed now. He notes that our generation is questioning whether or not our well-being can be measured by consuming goods, fancy cars, and the latest electronic gadgets.
09:55Copy video clip URL He says that the mentality of the generation during World War II was one of a country that could do anything, unlimited natural resources, no shortage of technical innovation. He says that this mentality of never having limits is wrong. He repeats his answer in shortened form.
15:53Copy video clip URL When asked what will life be like in the year 2020, Lenssen says that with the mentality of the previous generation we’d never make it to 2020. We’d see social structure of societies break apart, more wars in the Middle East over oil, major changes to climate, more skin cancer, changes to water supply, chemical contamination to our water, collapse of fisheries. These changes are already beginning to occur. We call this decade (the ’90s) the Decisive Decade. If we don’t start making the changes that are needed then there’s little hope the world can survive a downward spiral.
18:15Copy video clip URL Lenssen says that to some extent the World War II generation is still in charge. But overall he is optimistic that people will insist the leaders make the environmental changes that are needed.
19:42Copy video clip URL Lenssen says that his generation has to make a difference. We group up in a world of environmental crisis. “We will lead the charge.” The new generation being born today will be environmentally literate, but, he notes, we don’t have time to wait for them to grow up; we have to start taking action now. He says that his mission is to get the information out to the public that we have these problems and that there are solutions: light bulbs and refrigerators that consume less energy, cars that get 100-miles per gallon. He notes that utility regulation is an area that shows tremendous potential to help. Utility companies are being given incentives to encourage consumers to use less electricity. They have the chance to make more money by selling energy efficiency rather than kilowatt hours.
22:36Copy video clip URL Videographer cuts. Static.
22:43Copy video clip URL James “Jim” Weill introduces himself as the General Counsel for the Children’s Defense Fund. He notes that the CDF is a public education and advocacy group that represents America’s children. They put a special emphasis on poor and minority children.
24:21Copy video clip URL He notes the CDF works with children age 0-18 and that many children are treated badly. They are the poorest Americans, they are most likely to be uninsured. He notes the US is not investing enough in child care and education. We have high rates of child abuse. He note that if we keep this up, we’re likely to produce a generation not educated and healthy enough to meet the demands of the 21st Century. He suggests if things don’t change there is a chance children today will grow into a world of higher crime, unemployment, violence, teen pregnancy, and all sorts of adverse social indicators. He says we can change if we work at it. But we need to work fast and we need to do a lot.
25:30Copy video clip URL He says there are many causes as to why children are treated so poorly. In the last 20-30 years we’ve become driven by issues of the day, electoral politics, and who can produce votes as opposed to issues of long term strategic thought. Children don’t have the powers adults have and they’ve suffered for it. Racism is also an issue.
27:20Copy video clip URL Weill notes that the US is uninterested in investing in the future, saying that we haven’t invested enough in infrastructures like bridges, highways, tunnels, and also we haven’t invested in children. We’re living on consumption. The adults are in control. We can’t just blame the politicians. We’ve lost sight on how to keep the country going on a long-term basis. The pattern for 200 years has been that each generation has done better than the one before it. We’re in danger of losing that improvement on the American standard of living and American ethics.
29:51Copy video clip URL Weill notes that our values come from a society increasingly dominated by media consumption.
30:53Copy video clip URL Weill says the 1920s were like this, but it’s gotten out of hand in the last couple of decades. He says he doesn’t think any social group today is any more amoral or more consumer driven or greedy than any previous generation of Americans. He argues Americans have always wanted to do better for themselves and for their children. “There’s nothing wrong with that as long as people keep it in perspective,” and keep in mind the needs of the needy.
33:31Copy video clip URL Weill notes that teenagers are more environmentally conscious these days and that millions of kids are living with their parents at an age when their parents were out on their own.
35:10Copy video clip URL He says that families headed by those under age 30 are having terrible economic times. Two young parents have to work which means more child care costs and more stress. The recession simply exacerbates this stress. He also notes the rise in child poverty. “We have more children in poverty than ever before.” he describes it as a scandal, morally repugnant, and a kind of social suicide.
39:01Copy video clip URL Weill warns that if nothing is done about all this it will cause huge problems in the long term. Poverty has adverse effects. Kids will start school later, do poorly, drop out. He notes that poor kids, regardless of race, are more likely to drop out of school.
41:15Copy video clip URL Weill believes that we can still make the most of the kids we have today. Mothers need prenatal care, we need to lift kids out of poverty at birth. He advises that children need child care and social support and that our society knows how to do it, we’re just not doing it.
42:52Copy video clip URL Weill argues that we need an educated productive and economically viable work force to invest in our kids today. “We often think of social security issues as irrelevant to children, but it’s today’s ten-year-old that will be paying my social security when I’m retired.”
44:59Copy video clip URL END interview with Weill. Start in mid-sentence on an interview with Steve Entin in telling a funny anecdote. He introduces himself and notes he is a resident scholar at the Institute for Research on the Economics of Taxation in Washington, DC. He notes that the institute is a non-profit research group that analyzes taxes and other economic variables such as social security, pension issues, all kinds of taxes.
48:20Copy video clip URL In all of his research, Entin has found a bleak future for America “if we continue as we’re going.” We’ve been increasing taxes steadily since 1982, he says, noting that if the country doesn’t start investing as it should our elderly won’t be able to retire with the financial security they should have to remain comfortable.
49:48Copy video clip URL Entin notes how certain tax changes would make saving and investing more attractive. He notes that tax cuts work by lowering the cost of labor or the cost of equipment. He says growth happens when working becomes more attractive than leisure and buying a new machine more attractive than consuming the income.
52:12Copy video clip URL Entin notes that Social Security is running into an obstacle now. The Baby Boomers will be retiring in 2010/2015 and in the Social Security system by 2020/2030. It’s a large group. Previous generations could rely on a larger succeeding generation to follow in the work force, thereby ensuring a lot of working people would be contributing to their retirement comfort. He warns that three or four individuals in the work force supporting one retiree now could change in the future to only two individuals in the work force supporting one retiree. This would create a high increase in taxes for the future working generation.
54:43Copy video clip URL In answering the question, “How much more are people in the current Social Security system getting compared to what they’ve put into the system?” Entin responds that a low income person would get back a lot of what he put in plus more. But, he warns, eventually, people won’t get back as much as they put in.
55:56Copy video clip URL Entin notes that the people who designed the system made mistakes. When the system first started everyone was working and contributing and no one was retiring. So the first to retire received an enormous windfall. But as the system got older, as with any pay-as-you-go system, more and more people retired and the burden was put on the new generation of workers. The number of workers supporting each retiree began to fall.
57:32Copy video clip URL On the subject of energy and production in America, Entin notes that the nuclear power promise of the 1950s didn’t come true, but the primary problem facing the system is the demographic problem. Population rates are going down, meaning that there will be less people in the future work force to generate the money needed to fuel Social Security. “The Baby Boom didn’t have a baby boom behind it.”
01:01:09Copy video clip URL Entin says that the Baby Boom generation is not doing the things possible to have a healthy retirement. They’re not investing in the future by having enough children, for example. “We made a mistake in the 1986 tax reform by clobbering investment.” The tape ends mid sentence as he lists the mistakes.
01:03:25Copy video clip URL END