BILL MOYERS: Listening to, watching the State of Union address and when the camera would cut to the chamber in the House there, everyone in that chamber: well paid, health benefits, pension plan, a staff to serve their needs, corporations throwing money at them to make sure they get reelected. And I wonder if people that far removed from where you were can even imagine the horrors of the America you describe.
DAVID SIMON: You know, I've had the sensation over the last twenty -- and before “The Wire” even, I mean, when I was just a police reporter in Baltimore -- of hearing people inside the beltway speak about the American city or about urban issues or about things that I actually knew a little bit about. And they would talk about it you know, I'd be listening to, you know, a Gingrich or even some well-meaning liberal.
And I would think, I would love to have these guys in my Volkswagen Passat and just kick them out on the corner at Monroe and Fayette and you know, and just leave them there for a month, you know, and just see if they can you stop them from saying this stuff with just a little bit of aware--
BILL MOYERS: What would they see?
DAVID SIMON: They're not going to--
BILL MOYERS: What would they see at the corner?
DAVID SIMON: Well, they'd see human beings for one thing. They'd see the America that they've left behind and have left behind for generations. And now increasingly it's not all just people of color. Now the economy has shrugged again and again and we're leaving white people behind.
And so all of a sudden, it's encroaching in a way that people are getting a little bit more frantic. And it's making some people more inclined to reflect on what the system has wrought. And it's making other people more inclined to just dig the trenches deeper.
BILL MOYERS: The best analysis of Obama's speech that I read came from the writer Matt Miller who worked for Bill Clinton in the White House when Clinton laid out, Miller says, about the same vision that Obama did this week. Here's what Miller wrote, quote, "Yet in the years since, on virtually every metric progressives care about … the measures of a good society have gone in the wrong direction."
DAVID SIMON: Wrong direction.
BILL MOYERS: “Wages are stagnant or shrinking. School rankings have sagged. College and health costs have soared. Our rates of child poverty lead the developed world. Decent jobs remain scarce. The accident of birth weighs more heavily in dictating one's destiny. All the compelling anecdotes or special guests in the chamber don't change that."
DAVID SIMON: That's right. That's right. And you know, not to critique only the conservative logic and the supply-side logic, you know, Bill Clinton in maneuvering to the center, he signed all those crime bills. He made the American gulag as vast as it is with a lot of his legislation against the drug war. And he made it so that these disposable people could become grist for that horrible mill.
I am so aware of what-- at this point of having covered it for so many years of what the drug war means in terms of being effectively a war on the poor. That's all it is. It has no meaning in terms of narcotics or anything like that. That’s the shell game.
BILL MOYERS: But you wouldn't, you wouldn't connect that, would you, to the power of capital to buy the legislation.
DAVID SIMON: It's the power of capitalism--I don't know if I think it's that much of a plan, I'm not that much of a conspiracist. I think there are a lot of extra people left over when the factories all go to the cheapest labor. And you know, if you're going to move to the manufacturing base to the Pacific Rim and to Mexico and wherever else-- you're going to have a lot of extra people. And that's going to make you nervous. And those people are not going to have-- well, you're either going to have to pay them to be extra, which we don't have-- we're not that selfless. We're cutting back on welfare.
You're either going to have to pay them to be useless, you're going to have to find a way to completely reorient them and place them in the service economy in ways that they are not now relevant for. And that's a lot of money, we don't want to spend that money. Or you're going to have to hunt them, hunt them down. And that's what the drug war became. You know, we left one last industry in places like West Baltimore and North Philadelphia and East St. Louis; we left one last factory standing. We left the drug corner. And it was very lucrative and very destructive. And then we made that legal and then we made the laws against that so draconian that we could basically destroy lives.
And then to make it even more laughable as a capitalist enterprise, we started turning over the prisons to private companies. And so they can, certain people with the contracts can find a profit metric in destroying these lives.
BILL MOYERS: President Obama has said he wants a higher minimum age and he'll sign an executive order to do it in contracts that will come along down the road.
DAVID SIMON: And some jurisdictions will do the same thing. But why can't Congress look at this and say, "You know what? This is what we say we want these people working, we say we don't want welfare cheats, we say we don't want to welfare to grow. Here are people who are willing to work full time to be part of our service economy. Let's give them some discretionary income. They're probably going to spend it buying American product."
BILL MOYERS: It makes such sense, David, but at the same time, the federal minimum wage is $7.25. If it had been adjusted for productivity gains and inflation, today it would be $21.72.
DAVID SIMON: I know.
BILL MOYERS: Something like that.