Q&A With William Greider

Whenever the economy comes crashing down, journalists try to figure out what went wrong, and their first target is frequently each other.

WWD: Does that mean you subscribe to the notion that presidents have little to do with the economy?

If presidents take a compliant conservative stance, that’s true. But as we’ve seen in recent weeks, presidents can have profound impacts if they intend to. Bush’s fi scal policy helped unhinge the economy.

So you give Clinton little of the credit and Bush much of the blame?

No, I blame both of them. Clinton turned over economic policy to the very conservative Federal Reserve. And Bush unhinged the economy by shifting all the rewards to the very high-end earners. But the balanced budget is not what led to the boom during Clinton’s presidency. And the recession of 2000 and 2001 was not started by Bush.

WWD: Where do you think the bottom will be?

I don’t know. When the Dow was at 14,000, people would say to me, “How far does it have to come down?” And I’d say, “I don’t know. Maybe 8,000, 8,500.” Well, we’ve already hit that. A friend said to me last week, “I think it’s sort of at the bottom now, don’t you?” And I said, “I don’t know.” I know some things that haven’t happened yet that are negatives. And these emerging countries are now going belly-up, currencies are collapsing, we’ve got a lot of U.S. multinationals invested in those countries. So that’s going to be another wave of bad news. This is going to be a very hard time for Americans.

WWD: Your next book, “Come Home America,” hits early next year. What is it about?

W.G.: It’s my argument that the United States is at a profound turning point and, among other things, we are going to have to face up to economic and social contradictions we’ve been avoiding for decades. It’s the end of the triumphal post-World War II rise when we led the world and pretty much had our way. So I discuss globalization, militarism, the decay of political democracy, the ecological crisis, corporate power, you name it. And my timing is good.
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