Monday, October 04, 2010

Interview (YR): Eric Braeden on Immigration, Alternate Energy Sources and Campaign Reform

It is always a pleasure to interview Eric Braeden, who for the past 30 years has played the villain we love to hate, Victor Newman, on “The Young and the Restless.” This time around, Eric has a lot on his mind, and really, who can blame him? In the following series of interviews, Eric and I discuss the Gulf oil spill, alternative energy sources, immigration, campaign finance reform and much more.

Daytime Dial: When you first heard about the Gulf oil spill, what initially went through your mind?

Eric Braeden: What went through my mind most of all was we, obviously, have to become independent as far as energy is concerned and not rely on oil as much as we do. We need to put a lot of money into the development of alternative sources of energy, period. The second thing that came to my mind was, obviously, everyone knows that BP, apparently more than any other of the oil companies, has been warned many times because their safety measures were not upheld. That apparently applies to the huge pipeline in Alaska as well. So, hold their feet to the fire and make them pay for it. That’s all. The most obscene thing is when you see the millions of dollars they have now put into commercials. They look like Santa Claus, know what I’m saying? It’s a joke.

DD: That’s exactly what I think when I see those commercials. I think about how the money they spent “campaigning” for themselves could have really helped out the people who need it on the Gulf Coast.

EB: Absolutely, absolutely. No question about it. And my heart goes out to those who are affected by it, but when will we finally learn to devote a lot of attention and development money to alternative sources of energy? How long does it take? Our involvement in the Middle East really hinges on oil. It really does. Think about it: Do you think otherwise we would have given a damn about Saddam Hussein or about any of those people? We couldn’t have cared less. We are there because of oil.

DD: Do you think we’ll ever lessen our dependence on this form of fuel and head toward alternative energy sources?

EB: Even if we use natural gas — which we apparently have plenty in North America — according to T. Boone Pickens, we have plenty of natural gas in America, which burns 30 percent more cleanly than gasoline. He said we could almost be independent from the rest of the world. It is not that difficult, apparently, to change engines over to the use of natural gas. Already that would be one source of improvement, because I still think we have to improve our air quality whenever we can. Now imagine the developing countries like China and India, where we are going to sell hundreds of millions more cars, imagine them now contributing to the CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. How disastrous will that be? We need to really be a leading example of how to fix that problem.

DD: And also, think of all the jobs it could create to develop this hydrogen technology!

EB: Definitely! And of course, the technology with hydrogen is one that has been developed, but to what degree it has prospered, I don’t know yet. I do know that there are a number of car companies that are playing with it. But we need to really be serious about it.

DD: Tell me what you would do if you could be in charge, if for only one day.

EB: First of all, I would create a public-works program. I would employ a lot of the unemployed people right now by rebuilding America’s infrastructure. The roads are in terrible disrepair; America’s bridges are in disrepair. Anyone who knows anything about that will tell you that. We could employ a lot of people in building America’s infrastructure — sort of a works program like FDR had it. That is the first thing I would do to get people their jobs back.

Then I would encourage, in the terms of tax benefits or direct support, those companies that are already on the front line of developing alternative sources of energy. But the most important thing is to get people into jobs and to fix America’s infrastructure. It would employ a lot of people … a lot of people. It would employ a lot of people who are not necessarily technically qualified to do the kind of white-collar jobs that are now more and more in demand because a lot of the blue-collar jobs have gone away. But you would employ a lot of blue-collar labor in the rebuilding of America’s infrastructure. For example, with roads, all you have to do is drive through L.A. on Sunset Boulevard or Wilshire Boulevard, and you’d be lucky if you don’t blow out your tire in potholes. It’s an outrage. And that, I assure you, happens everywhere in America. So, there would be plenty to do in the rebuilding in America’s infrastructure.

DD: What else would you do?

EB: I also think that campaign laws should be changed. I think it is absolutely outrageous how candidates are allowed to so skew the messages of other candidates. It’s just obnoxious. Isn’t it obnoxious to watch? I don’t watch it for five seconds. I just can’t. It’s bull from the onset. And people buy it. The cynicism in the business is just extraordinary. How can you believe anything in those ads? Nothing. It’s paid for by behind-the-scenes interest groups.

DD: I know — I turn the channel the moment I see a political ad starting up.

EB: Let me tell you, I think what should happen is there should be no ads — they should not be allowed. A certain amount of money should be allocated to all the candidates. They should have a series of debates without a moderator, who interrupts rudely, and let them go at each other. Just let them go at each other. I would want to see that. People are smart enough to know what they are talking about. The way the system is, we have a moderator and everyone gives his spiel, and it is all canned. I want to hear real debates. It’s not happening, and we keep on buying that stuff. So, yes, I think that every candidate running should only get so much money. Period. That’s it. And then you have a series of debates. No ads. No negative ads. I want to see what you stand for, not what you think about your opponent. That’s all.

DD: I know you have some strong views on immigration reform. Tell me your thoughts on that and how our current government is handling it.

EB: As you know, I am an immigrant to this country. I love this country, and I came in here legally. And it is extremely difficult for Europeans to get into this country now. Let me tell you about the hypocrisy in regard to immigration. As far as I’m concerned, it’s either legal or illegal. Many of them cross the border illegally, to the tune of 12 million people now. Let me tell you why we allowed that to go on. It is the most hypocritical issue, one of the most hypocritical issues in American politics on both sides, Republican and Democratic. Since the ’50s, we have been absolutely petrified of another socialist or communist revolution in Mexico, one like Cuba had. We are afraid of another Cuba south of our border. Conditions in those countries are so dismal that if you did not have that safety valve of the poor, the destitute coming to America and making a living here, they would have shouted “revolution” in Mexico. You know that. The conditions in those countries are so horrendous, and the chasm between rich and poor is so enormous, there is an obvious potential for revolution. We didn’t want that, so we just sort of, you know, winked with one eye and said: “Well, there’s the border. Let him sort of come in.”

DD: And think of all the cheap labor!

EB: Exactly! A lot of the big industries in California, Texas, etc., are profiting enormously from that cheap labor. The agricultural business in California, by the way, California produces more agricultural products than any other state in the union, which is unbeknownst to a lot of people. This is an enormously productive state. But where does agriculture profit from? From the cheap labor that comes across the border.

One should really take a very close look at when our immigration laws changed or were amended, and who was responsible. Get back to the source. Why is it so difficult for Europeans, who built this country? Immigrants from Germany, the largest ethnic group in America, from England, from Ireland, from Poland, from everywhere in Europe, they were usually trained professionals who came here. If you are an immigrant from Europe, it’s very difficult to immigrate. That we open the border, allow this cheap labor to come in, it is so hypocritical I could scream. Although I’m a liberal, in that case I’m very conservative. I say, either you’re backed by the law or you get the hell out. That’s all. Simple as it is.

DD: We could, literally, close the border, but like you said, imagine the uproar from the businesses that need the cheap labor!

EB: Of course we can close the border, but we don’t really want to. The Latin American people who come here, the ones I have known, are very hardworking people. There is nothing lazy about them. I respect them enormously. But, either there is a law or there is not a law. So, what do we do with the ones who are here? We cannot send them back. So, the 12 million illegals here, I think we need to obviously come to some accommodation and find a way for them to become citizens, because they are hardworking people. I’m not blaming them — not at all. Our government and the governments of California, Arizona and Texas have allowed them to come in. It’s nonsense that they haven’t closed the borders.