Tag Archive: Bill Moyers

Apr 29 2013

They Hate Us For What We Are Doing

The High Cost of Government Secrecy

Columnist Glenn Greenwald explains what the Boston bombings and U.S. drone attacks have in common, and how secrecy leads to abuse of government power.

“Should we change or radically alter or dismantle our standard protocols of justice in the name of terrorism? That’s been the debate we’ve been having since the September 11th attack,” Greenwald tells Bill. “We can do what we’ve been doing, which is become a more closed society, authorize the government to read our emails, listen in our telephone calls, put people in prison without charges, enact laws that make it easier for the government to do those sorts of things. Or we can try and understand why it is that people want to come here and do that.” [..]

“There certainly are cases where the United States has very recklessly killed civilians,” he tells Bill. “So at some point, when a government engages in behavior year after year after year after year, that continues to kill innocent people in a very foreseeable way, and continues to do that, in my mind that reaches a level of recklessness that is very similar to intentional killing.”



Transcript can be read here

Apr 21 2013

Bill Moyers: The United States of Inequality

Income inequality is growing in the United States. Occupy Wall Street brought the income gap between the 99% and the 1% into the light and changed the conversation. Bill Moyers explores what happened in Silicon Valley where the homeless problem has grown 20% in the last two years and tent cities are common place among the million dollar mansions. Poverty shows no sign of abating despite the market thriving.

“A petty, narcissistic, pridefully ignorant politics has come to dominate and paralyze our government,” says Bill, “while millions of people keep falling through the gaping hole that has turned us into the United States of Inequality.”

Our growing income inequality causes 43% of the projected Social Security shortfall

by Gaius Publius, Americablog

Upward redistribution of income – what we’ve been calling the “looting of the economy” by the billionaire CEO class – is responsible for at least 43% of the projected Social Security shortfall for the next 75 years.

Let that sink in. This is yet another way that the looters want the victims to pay for their victimhood and hold the looters lossless. The CEO class has worked for three decades to create an economy where working people have a far less share of the economic growth than they used to have. One of the results of that inequity was an unexpected shortfall in the income collected by Social Security.

Think about it – everyone could see that the big demographic shift, the baby-boom generation, would show up on schedule. They could see that in the 1950s. But who knew 30 years ago (1983, if you’re not subtracting quickly), when the last Social Security adjustment occurred, that Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama would create a bipartisan consensus around handing all the fruits of productivity to the “rich and famous” set that you’re not a part of? That was not part of the calculation in those golden Reagan Days, and the Social Security Trust Fund has suffered ever since.

City Report Shows a Growing Number Are Near Poverty

by Sam Roberts

The rise in New York City’s poverty rate as a result of the recession has apparently eased, but not before pushing nearly half of the city’s population into the ranks of the poor or near-poor in 2011, according to an analysis by the Bloomberg administration.

That year, according to the city’s measure, about 46 percent of New Yorkers were making less than 150 percent of the poverty threshold, a benchmark used to describe people who are not officially poor but who still struggle to get by. That represents a rise of almost two percentage points since 2009, when the nation’s recession officially ended. [..]

Though more New Yorkers were working in 2011 than the year before, larger shares of children and working adults were classified as poor in 2011, and the proportions of Asians, noncitizens and Queens residents – overlapping groups – each rose by more than four percentage points since 2008.

Mar 20 2013

Economic Justice And Fair Wages

Last week the House of Representatives killed a proposal that would have raised the minimum wage tp $10.10 an hour over two years. It failed with not one Republican vote in favor and six Democrats voting against it, as well. In an article for the Los Angeles Times, David Horsey says that while both Democratic and Republican politicians express concern for the middle class, they have failed miserably to address the growing class divide in the Unites States.

As politicians in Washington slam one another over competing budget priorities, most avoid facing up to the disturbing question behind all the numbers: Is the American Dream temporarily stalled or permanently kaput? [..]

This is not the country we like to think we are and it is not the country our political leaders are willing to admit they have helped create. Thirty years of catering to Wall Street, big business and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has not boosted the American economy the way it was meant to do. Yes, the financial industry and giant corporations are awash in wealth, but they are not hiring more workers, they are not paying better pay, they are not enhancing benefits, they are not sharing the wealth. On the contrary, the typical American is working much harder for worse compensation. He or she is paying a bigger share of the healthcare bill and has no pension plan waiting at the end of the line.

This is an all-American crisis bigger than the deficit or the war on terrorism, but no one seems ready to take it on.

Mr. Horsey notes a rundown of the facts about today’s American economy by economics columnist Jon Talton:

• Worker productivity has increased nearly 23% since 2000, but hourly wages rose a pitiful 0.5% in that period.

• Taking a longer view back to 1973, productivity is up 80% between now and then, but pay is up only 11%.

• People at the bottom of the wage scale are earning less now than similar workers in 1979.

• Employees in the middle of the wage scale are getting 6% more than in 1979, but all that increase happened in the 1990s.

• High earners, meanwhile, are making 37% more than back in the 1970s, and the much-talked-about folks in the top 1% have enjoyed a 131% increase in earnings.

In his article, Mr. Talton furthers concludes:

This reality is at complete odds of our self-image as the Land of Opportunity. It is also a change from a previous America. We’ve been losing ground. Some reasons are obvious, others are complex. Many are familiar to readers of this column, and a few are the subject of sharp debate.

Globalization, offshoring and technology have decimated the old blue-collar middle class. The economy has shifted to service jobs that not only tend to pay less but are increasingly part time and temporary. [..]

Whatever the causes, little is being done to correct our trajectory into historic high inequality that is greater than other advanced nations.

Things may have to get worse before change happens. One thing is clear: Our situation is unsustainable and un-American.

Richard Wolff on Fighting for Economic Justice and Fair Wages

Economist Richard Wolff joins Bill to shine light on the disaster left behind in capitalism’s wake, and to discuss the fight for economic justice, including a fair minimum wage. A Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, and currently Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School. [..]

“We have this disparity getting wider and wider between those for whom capitalism continues to deliver the goods by all means, [and] a growing majority in this society facing harder and harder times,” Wolff tells Bill. “And that’s what provokes some of us to begin to say it’s a systemic problem.”

Feb 28 2013

The White House For Sale By OFA

White House for Sale photo white-house-for-sale_zpsffe731a9.jpg President Barack Obama’s campaign organization, “Obama for America” (OFA), is being reinvented as as a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt “social welfare group” that is not subject to federal contribution limits, laws that bar White House officials from soliciting contributions, or the stringent reporting requirements for campaigns. The goal is to raise $50 million  support of Mr. Obama’s second-term policy priorities, including efforts to curb gun violence and climate change and overhaul immigration procedures. Much like the alleged “grassroots” organizations, The Tea Party and Freedom Works, the new organization, now known as “Organizing for Action” (still OFA, so as not to confuse Obama supports), will derive most of its budget from a select group of donors who will each contribute or raise $500,000 or more. Sounds harmless? But wait, there’s more, as reported in The New York Times

But those contributions will also translate into access, according to donors courted by the president’s aides. Next month, Organizing for Action will hold a “founders summit” at a hotel near the White House, where donors paying $50,000 each will mingle with Mr. Obama’s former campaign manager, Jim Messina, and Mr. Carson, who previously led the White House Office of Public Engagement.

Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships. [..]

Many traditional advocacy organizations, including the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association, are set up as social welfare groups, or 501(c)(4)’s in tax parlance. But unlike those groups, Organizing for Action appears to be an extension of the administration, stocked with alumni of Mr. Obama’s White House and campaign teams and devoted solely to the president’s second-term agenda.

The new OFA, which would be among the largest lobbying groups in Washington, will supposedly stay out of electoral politics, advocating only for progressive issues which as the article notes may be easier said than done as the 2014 midterm elections near. It’s already drawing fire from Democrats and watch dog groups that are accusing the group of selling access to President Barack Obama. Cole Leystra, executive director of former Sen. Russ Feingold’s Progressives United group said in a blog post http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…

(I)t was exactly “what selling access looks like.”

“It’s embarrassing that the largest grassroots organization in history would abandon its own beliefs,” wrote Leystra.

“Organizing for Action should embrace its base of grassroots donors as a model of participatory democracy, not shun them in the dash to rake in huge contributions from a wealthy and powerful few,” he added. “We cannot return to the days of soft money — when unlimited corporate contributions blurred the differences between the two political parties, and resulted in policies that slammed average working families while rewarding Wall Street.”

In an interview with Amy Goodman and Nermeen Shaikh, the president of the watch dog group Common Cause, Bob Edgar raised the main objections to the new and “improved” OFA:

The watchdog group Common Cause called on President Obama on Tuesday to shut down the nonprofit spinoff of his campaign committee, saying that the group effectively puts access to the president up “for sale.”

“If President Obama is serious about his often-expressed desire to rein in big money in politics, he should shut down Organizing for Action and disavow any plan to schedule regular meetings with its major donors,” said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause. “Access to the President should never be for sale.”

Apparently Pres. Obama thinks that since the Koch Brothers and Pete Peterson can get away with influencing and misinforming voters with massive media campaigns and its paid shills on every talk show spouting the company line, so can he. Don’t be fooled, these groups are all the same: certainly not “grass roots” and definitely not for the people, unless they’re the rich ones.

Feb 26 2013

The Failure of Capitalism: The Rich Get Richer

Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts Richard Wolff joined Bill Moyers for a look behind the disaster left in capitalism’s wake and a discussion of economic justice and a fair minimum wage:

“We have this disparity getting wider and wider between those for whom capitalism continues to deliver the goods by all means, [and] a growing majority in this society facing harder and harder times,” Wolff tells Bill. “And that’s what provokes some of us to begin to say it’s a systemic problem.”

A caveat from Yves Smith at naked capitalism:

Wolff pooh poohs financial regulation, peculiarly dismissing the fact that it worked well for two generations. And what broke it was not bank lobbying but the high and volatile interest rates of the 1970s, which resulted from imperial overreach (Johnson refusing to raise taxes when the economy was already at full employment; he deficit financed the combo plate of the space race, the war in Vietnam, and the war on poverty. And Vietnam was the reason for not raising taxes; the war was already unpopular, and a tax increase would have made it more so). At one point, Moyers brings up oligopolies as another driver of increased concentration of wealth, and Wolff misses the opportunity to take up the idea (the failure to enforce anti-trust regulations is a not-sufficienlty well recognized contributor to rising income inequality).

Minimum wage hike would benefit millions

Moyers opened the segment by saying that even if the country increases the minimum wage to the $9 per hour proposed by President Barack Obama in his State of the Union speech, workers will still be worse off than their counterparts were fifty years ago.

Wolff agreed, “The peak for the minimum wage in terms of its purchasing power,” he said, “was 1968. It’s basically been declining, with a couple of ups and downs, ever since.”

“So, you’ve taken the people who work at the bottom, full time job,” he continued, “and you’ve made their economic condition worse over a 50 year period while wealth has accumulated at the top. What kind of a society does this?”

“Who decided that workers at the bottom should fall behind?” Moyers asked.

“Well, in the end,” said Wolff, “it’s the society as a whole that tolerates it. But, it’s Congress’ decision and Congress’ power to raise the minimum wage.”

Feb 19 2013

Contributions Are Killing Democracy

In January of 2010, the US Supreme Court handed down its decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission that held that the First Amendment prohibited the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. However, the case did not involve the federal ban on direct contributions from corporations or unions to candidate campaigns or political parties, which remain illegal in races for federal office.

Once again the US Supreme Court is about to weigh in on campaign finance agreeing to hear arguments in the McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission which contends that limits on what individuals are allowed to give candidates and parties and PACs is an unconstitutional violation of the individual donor’s free speech rights.

Supreme Court Takes Campaign Finance Case, Will Rule On Contribution Limits

by Paul Blumenthal, The Huffington Post

The U.S. Court of Appeals already ruled in favor of keeping the biennial limits, which have been in place since 1971 and were upheld in the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo case. By accepting the case, the Supreme Court is stepping into the thick of another controversial campaign finance case just three years after ruling in Citizens United v. FEC that corporations and unions can spend freely on elections. [..]

Campaign finance reformers are already calling on the court to maintain the Buckley precedent and rule against the challenge in McCutcheon, for fear that any overturning of Buckley will eventually lead to future erosion of contribution limits and other campaign finance precedents meant to protect against corruption or the appearance of corruption. [..]

A ruling to overturn the biennial limits would not directly affect the amount an individual donor could give to a single candidate, but, thanks to the proliferation of joint fundraising committees, known as victory funds or committees, a candidate could potentially solicit a single contribution from one donor of up to — if not more than — $3,627,600.

In a recent segment of Moyers & Company, host Bill Moyers discussed how “big money” is destroying democracy with Dan Cantor, Executive Director of New York’s Working Families Party, and Jonathan Soros, co-founder of the Friends of Democracy super PAC and a Senior Fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

“There’s so much money being spent, there’s so much cynicism about the system, but the evidence shows, in states that do have public financing systems, that candidates can run in those systems and win, and they do it by focusing on their constituents and small donors,” Soros tells Bill.

Soros and Cantor advocate for a New York State public financing system inspired by New York City’s publicly-funded program that makes it less financially prohibitive to run for city-wide office. “People should appreciate who gets to run for office when you have a system like this. Librarians run for office, ex-teachers run for office – not just people who have a rolodex of prospective donors,” Cantor says. “It’s good for the candidates and the voters alike.”

The Super PAC That Aims to End Super PACs

by Michael D. Shear, The New York Times

In the next four months, Mr. Soros and a small team at Friends of Democracy, the new Super PAC, are going to pick 10 to 15 House lawmakers whose records and public statements have not been supportive of what Mr. Soros calls a system of “citizen-led” elections.

In those districts, the new Super PAC will produce direct mail, telephone calls, Internet advertising and even a few television commercials aimed at making sure voters know the positions of the lawmaker

In addition, a separate sister organization will be picking a handful of campaign finance reform “heroes” who will receive some direct contributions to reward them for their positions.

If all goes according to plan, Mr. Soros is hoping to eventually demonstrate to politicians that there is a political cost for standing in the way of reform.

For sale to the highest bidder, the Unites States of America.

Feb 04 2013

DOJ Turns A Blind Eye to Shockingly Bad Behavior

Matt Taibbi on Big Banks’ Lack of Accountability

Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi joins Bill to discuss the continuing lack of accountability for “too big to fail” banks which continue to break laws and act unethically because they know they can get away with it. Taibbi refers specifically to the government’s recent settlement with HSBC – “a serial offender on the money laundering score” – who merely had to pay a big fine for shocking offenses, including, Taibbi says, laundering money for both drug cartels and banks connected to terrorists.

Taibbi also expresses his concern over recent Obama appointees – including Jack Lew and Mary Jo White – who go from working on behalf of major banks in the private sector to policing them in the public sector.

Matt has more on Mary Jo White and her involvement with squashing the insider trading case against future Morgan Stanley CEO John Mack by Sec investigator Gary Aguirre.

There are a few more troubling details about this incident that haven’t been disclosed publicly yet. The first involve White’s deposition about this case, which she gave in February 2007, as part of the SEC Inspector General’s investigation. In this deposition, White is asked to recount the process by which Berger came to work at D&P. There are several striking exchanges, in which she gives highly revealing answers.

First, White describes the results of her informal queries about Berger as a hire candidate. “I got some feedback,” she says, “that Paul Berger was considered very aggressive by the defense bar, the defense enforcement bar.” White is saying that lawyers who represent Wall Street banks think of Berger as being kind of a hard-ass. She is immediately asked if it is considered a good thing for an SEC official to be “aggressive”:

   Q: When you say that Berger was considered to be very aggressive, was that a positive thing for you?

   A: It was an issue to explore.

Later, she is again asked about this “aggressiveness” question, and her answers provide outstanding insight into the thinking of Wall Street’s hired legal guns – what White describes as “the defense enforcement bar.” In this exchange, White is essentially saying that she had to weigh how much Berger’s negative reputation for “aggressiveness” among her little community of bought-off banker lawyers might hurt her firm.

   Q: During your process of performing due diligence on Paul Berger, did you explore what you had heard earlier about him being very aggressive?

   A: Yes.

   Q: What did you learn about that?

   A: That some people thought he was very aggressive. That was an issue, we really did talk to a number of people about.

   Q: Did they expand on that as to why or how they thought he was aggressive?

   A: I think and as a former prosecutor, sometimes people refer to me as Attila the Hun. I understand how people can get a reputation sometimes. We were trying to obviously figure out whether this was something beyond, you always have a spectrum on the aggressiveness scale for government types and was this an issue that was beyond real commitment to the job and the mission and bringing cases, which is a positive thing in the government, to a point. Or was it a broader issue that could leave resentment in the business community or in the legal community that would hamper his ability to function well in the private sector?

It’s certainly strange that White has to qualify the idea that bringing cases is a positive thing in a government official – that bringing cases is a “positive thing . . . to a point.” Can anyone imagine the future head of the DEA saying something like, “For a prosecutor, bringing drug cases is a positive, to a point?”

Somehow this sounds like more of the same at the from the Obama administration.  

Jan 14 2013

Krugman: The Keys to Economic Recovery

Paul Krugman Explains the Keys to Our Recovery



Transcript can be read here

Nobel Prize-winning economist and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman argues that saving money is not the path to economic recovery. Instead, he tells Bill, we should put aside our excessive focus on the deficit, try to overcome political recalcitrance, and spend money to put America back to work. Krugman offers specific solutions to not only end what he calls a “vast, unnecessary catastrophe,” but to do it more quickly than some imagine possible. His latest book, End This Depression Now!, is both a warning of the fiscal perils ahead and a prescription to safely avoid them.

On Pres. Obama’s choice of Jack Lew for Treasury Secretary

(W)hat the president needs right now is he needs a hardnosed negotiator. And rumor has it that’s what he’s got, so.

The president can’t pass major new legislation. He can’t formulate major new programs right now. What he has to do now is bargain down or ride over these crazy people in the Republican Party. And we what we need now is not deep thinking from the treasury secretary. If the president wants deep thinkers, he can call Joe Stiglitz, he can call other people. What he needs from the Treasury secretary is somebody who’s going to be very effective at dealing with these wild men and making sure that nothing terrible happens.

Damning praise, indeed.

Dec 17 2012

The Overhyped Fiscal Myth

Bruce Bartlett and Yves Smith on Overhyping the Fiscal Cliff

Bruce Bartlett and Yves Smith join Bill in a discussion about why Washington insiders are talking about the deficit crisis instead of the jobs crisis.

Transcript can be read here.

H/T Yves Smith at naked capitalism:

I had fun in this conversation with conservative Bruce Bartlett, even though he stole some of my best lines (like Obama not being a liberal). Bartlett is in exile from the Republican party for saying things like Keynesian deficits stimulate the economy (after doing research and finding he couldn’t debunk it based on data) and unions help promote higher wages.

Repeat after me, “Austerity is bad.

Nov 24 2012

Elections: “Super PAC’s Upped the Ante”

One of the people I am thankful for is Bill Moyers and his quiet, rational discussion of the problem that plague this country and the world on his PBS program Moyers & Company. In an interview with Trevor Potter, the former Federal Election Commission Chairman and  the lawyer behind the creation and functioning of Stephen Colbert‘s PAC, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow”, they discuss how Citizens United has effected, not only this campaign, but campaigns in the very near future with the influx of undisclosed money to Super PACs from very wealthy donors who want only to protect their influence in Congress.

Trevor Potter on Big Money’s Election Effect

Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Trevor Potter – the lawyer who advised Stephen Colbert on setting up a super PAC – dissects the spending on the most expensive election in American history. Many voices are claiming “money didn’t matter, Citizens United wasn’t a factor,” but Potter disagrees.

“Super PACs just upped the ante,” he tells Bill. “If you’re a senator and you have just been elected, or heaven forbid you’re up in two years, you’re thinking I don’t have time to worry about deficit reduction and the fiscal cliff. I have to raise tens of thousands of dollars every day to have enough money to compete with these new super PACs… And that means I need to be nice to a lot of billionaires who often want something from me in order to find the funding for my campaign.”

The transcript can be read here

Older posts «

» Newer posts

Fetch more items