Thursday, September 08, 2011

Why Iowa? Chase Garrett and Robert Reich

September 8, 2011, 3:00 p.m. (with some edits and additions September 9, 2011, 9:30 a.m.)

Just Your Everyday Walk Around a Small Iowa Town

I was lucky to have been born and raised in Iowa City, and schooled in the University's experimental elementary and high school (now North Hall). The next 30 years I spent elsewhere -- Texas, California, but mostly Washington, D.C. When I returned home, some friends and former colleagues on the east and west coasts would ask, "Iowa, Nick? Why Iowa?"

As those of us who live here know, there are hundreds of responses to those questions. Last evening provided yet one more.

Walking along downtown Iowa City's Washington Street, following a reception at a restaurant that can match many of those on the coasts, we came upon an amazing piano player, 22-year-old Chase Garrett. He was sitting at a piano kindly placed on the sidewalk by those who thought it would be a nice addition to this community of literature (one of three so designated by the United Nations), theater, music, and creative arts generally.

Here is a direct link to the YouTube location of my video, and a link to Chase's Web site:

It turns out I'm far from the first person to discover this guy and upload his music to YouTube. Put "Chase Garrett" (in quotes) into YouTube search, and you'll see over 100 more.

From there we wandered down the hill to the Iowa Memorial Union (about three blocks). (Another nice thing about Iowa City is that an easy walk can get you to many of the places you want to go. If you're in a hurry you can bike. With time to spare, you can even drive.)

What we found in the main lounge of the IMU was a standing room only crowd, packed to the walls, waiting to hear a free lecture by Robert Reich,, once Secretary of Labor and now University of California, Berkeley, professor of public policy.

Yet another advantage of life in an intellectual, research and cultural environment, Robert Reich's appearance was the University of Iowa Lecture Committee's Distinguished Lecture for 2010-2011, and one in the Public Policy Center's Forkenbrock Series, under the joint sponsorship of the University Lecture Committee, and the Public Policy Center (Peter C. Damiano, director).

He had the audience in the palm of his hand, roaming the stage with a hand held mike, no notes, incisive comment, humor, and a Jack-Benny-like sense of timing and the pause -- necessary last evening because of the audience's tendency to interrupt him with applause throughout, and a couple standing ovations. All in all a great evening.

It was nice to have a chance to visit with him before and after the event, recalling his campaigning in Iowa City for presidential candidate Senator Bill Bradley. Reich and I write on similar subjects and come to similar conclusions. The primary difference between us being (1) he knows what he's talking about, and I rely on gut instinct in coming to the same conclusions, and (2) people read what he writes and come to listen to what he has to say. (I am always surprised and delighted to discover that at least one of my close family members has actually read one of these blog entries. There was even one day last year when two had done so on the same day.) I told him that I got all my best ideas from him, and he was polite enough to instantly respond with the lie that he got all his best ideas from me.

I won't bother to repeat what he had to say in his lecture and Q and A; but here is his own truncated video version of some of his themes in 2:33 minutes.

Drake University, where he spoke the following evening, has a video of his Drake speech, albeit with less than adequate audio (apparently from a source other than his mike).

If you are a regular reader of this blog (there's bound to be one somewhere), you've encountered most of the themes here during the last three years or so. But I will refer you to a story in the local press in which Diane Heldt nicely captured the gist of Wednesday evening's presentation.

Diane Heldt, "Reich: Nation must stimulate economy, address wealth inequity," The Gazette/SourceMedia Group News, September 8, 2011

In his planned speech to the nation Thursday night about the economy, President Obama must be bold and ambitious, and relay the message of “priming the pump” with robust government stimulus and spending, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich said Wednesday night at the University of Iowa.

Government stimulus to boost consumer spending, loans to the states to perk up their flagging budgets and stop job cuts and the re-creation of such programs as the WPA to add jobs are what’s needed to revive the economy — steps far beyond just extending unemployment and the tax cuts, Reich said.

“It is more important now than deficit reduction,” he told a standing-room only crowd at the Iowa Memorial Union. “The debt, the deficit issue, although real, is manageable. What needs to be addressed now is jobs and growth.”

About 500 people turned out Wednesday to see Reich speak, the UI’s 2011-12 Distinguished Lecture event. Reich served in three presidential administrations, most recently as the Secretary of Labor for President Bill Clinton. Reich has authored 13 books; his most recent is “Aftershock: The Next Economy and America’s Future.”

Reich said he’s not suggesting the way out of our economic morass is to consume more things and fill our homes. Rather than blind consumerism, he advocates a broader notion of consumption — consuming better health care, a better environment, better arts and all the benefits of living a better life.

Government can only get so far priming the pump with stimulus when there’s not enough water in the well to begin with, Reich said. The issue of wealth inequality in the United States has to be addressed to produce long-term economic solutions, he said.

The wealthiest people control so much of the income that the vast middle class doesn’t have enough purchasing power to keep the economy going without going into debt, he said. Without reversing this trend of inequality, the country will come up against this issue again and again, Reich said.

“My fear is there is not much of a dialogue going on about any of this,” he said.
Why Iowa?

Chase Garrett, Robert Reich, and a lovely, short September evening's walk. That's one reason why Iowa.

There are hundreds more.

# # #


Anonymous said...

Another excellent Blog, Nick. Enjoyed it very much and I agree.
Thanks for writing it. I will be sharing this on my wall.


elseesea said...

Nick, while I agree with every bit of your sentiment, I must disagree on the title question "Why Iowa?"

I believe the more proper title question for your article is "Why Iowa City?" Unless of course you truly believe that your article applies to other places in Iowa.

I've lived in Taipei, Singapore, Tehran, Los Angeles, Knoxville, Cleveland, Iowa City, Chicago, and Overland Park, and Iowa City ranks first among them.