Hedrick Smith, Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter, will visit Flagler College on March 27 as part of the Flagler College Forum on Government and Public Policy lecture series.
March 14, 2014
Hedrick Smith didn’t start out writing a book about the theft of the American Dream but soon after looking into the topic, the Pulitzer Prize-winning former New York Times reporter knew something wasn’t right.
“I was looking at a situation back in 2009 in which it was perfectly clear the dream was at risk. People were being laid off, foreclosed on, the economy was headed off the cliff,” said Smith, who will visit Flagler College on March 27 as part of the Flagler College Forum on Government and Public Policy lecture series. “I knew it hadn’t just blown up over the last few years. The roots had to go back further.”
Smith published “Who Stole the American Dream?” in 2012 and says the problem can be traced back decades with blame lying at the feet of both parties.
“If you look at what happened between 1945 and 1975, the productivity of the American work force and the median income went up almost dollar for dollar,” said Smith, who has won two Emmys for his documentary work on the subject. “From the late ‘70s until 2011, the increase in productivity went up 80 percent for the workforce. The median household income went up 10 percent and that’s really only because more women entered the workforce working more hours.”
That gap, says Smith, creates a huge economic divide creating what in reality is two Americas.
“During the recession, a certain portion of people lost money on their houses and stocks because the values went down, but they didn’t lose their jobs and they’ve gotten better as the markets recovered,” explains Smith. “But there’s another America in which people were foreclosed on, they lost their jobs and if they were lucky enough to find new ones they weren’t as good as the old ones. We’ve created 9 million jobs in the recovery but they aren’t the same 9 million jobs we lost.”
Smith believes that a big step in fixing the issue would be to raise minimum wage, a tactic that is being strongly debated in government.
“I don’t understand the argument against it. We as taxpayers are subsidizing these workers earning low minimum wages because they are in poverty, on food stamps or other need programs. So we’re funding it,” said Smith. “If you want to shrink government, one of the best things to do would be to raise the minimum wage. You get people out of these programs and create more purchasing power for the economy.”
In 26 years with The New York Times, Smith covered Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights struggle, the Vietnam War in Saigon, the Middle East conflict from Cairo, the Cold War from both Moscow and Washington, and six American presidents and their administrations.
In 1971, as chief diplomatic correspondent, Smith was a member of the Pulitzer Prize-winning team that produced the Pentagon Papers series. In 1974, he won the Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting from Russia and Eastern Europe.
As a documentarian, Smith has created 26 prime-time specials and mini-series for PBS since 1989 on such varied topics as terrorism, Wall Street and Wal-Mart to Enron, health care and the environment.
Smith’s lecture, "Who Stole the American Dream?," will take place at Lewis Auditorium at Flagler College, 14 Granada St., at 7 p.m. Forums are free and open to the public, but seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. Sign language interpreters are provided.
Smith will sign copies of his book in the auditorium following the lecture.
Call (904) 819-6400 for more information.