Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
Photo of Bill Moyers Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Bill Moyers Journal
Watch & Listen The Blog Archive Transcripts Buy DVDs

« Ask the Reporters: EXPOSÉ on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL | Main | Bill Moyers Asks: What Should The Next Administration Do About America's Troubles? »

Bill Moyers & Michael Winship: A Novel Approach to Politics

ABC News’ political blog, “The Note,” points out this week that Paris Hilton is issuing policy statements while John McCain nominates his wife for a topless beauty contest. The world’s turned upside down. Who could blame a person for thinking that chronicling such oddness is beyond the skills of simple journalists? This is a job for the novelists.

Here, for example, is something straight out of Tom Wolfe’s BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES. Are you ready for this? THE WALL STREET JOURNAL reports that, “At a time when scores of companies are freezing pensions for their workers, some are quietly converting those pension plans into resources to finance their executives' retirement benefit and pay. In recent years, companies from Intel Corp to CenturyTel Inc. collectively have moved hundreds of millions of dollars of obligations for executive benefits into rank-and-file pension plans. This lets companies capture tax breaks intended for pensions of regular workers and use them to pay for executives' supplemental benefits and compensation.”

Everyone knows we've been living through one of the great redistributions of wealth in American history – from the bottom up. But this takes the cake, because our tax dollars are subsidizing this spectacular round of robbing the poor to pay off the rich. Sad to say, it’s not fiction.

And how about this: On the campaign trail John McCain has been sounding like Sinclair Lewis’ Elmer Gantry, preaching the gospel of oil drilling. Sure enough, like all other evangelists, who promise heaven and pass the collection plate, the offerings roll in. The website Campaign Money Watch reports that companies lusting to drill off shore have been raining dollars on McCain ever since he saw the light. Earlier this summer, John B. Hess, of Hess Oil, no less, convened his cronies at the ritzy 21 Club here in New York City and collected $285,000 for McCain and the Republican National Committee. And you thought those rallies recently staged in Washington for more oil drilling were just spontaneous gushers of affection from politicians who give billions in subsidies to… big oil companies. Edna Ferber, those strike-it-rich Texas tycoons in your novel Giant would feel right at home.

Barack Obama’s more the Horatio Alger dime novel type, with his rags-to-riches backstory and his emphasis on the little people who’ve funded his campaign. But not so fast. This is one little David who’s got a lot of corporate Goliaths on his side, too. Big oil has greased the wheels of his campaign machine – albeit far less than John McCain’s – and a third of his contributions have come from donations of $1,000 or more. That translates into 112 million bucks – more, in fact, than John McCain has raised from his rich pals. And although he boasts that he won’t take cash from lobbyists or political action committees registered with the Feds, two thirds of Obama’s high rollers come from sectors with a keen interest in what government can giveth and taketh away – entertainment, real estate, law and securities and investments. Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Lehman Brothers; Obama’s been ringing some platinum-plated doorbells.

Finally, here's one to send Ayn Rand spinning: The White House projects next year’s federal budget deficit at a record $482 billion, and that’s not counting a possible $25 billion bailout of the mortgage banks Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Or the total costs of fighting in the Middle East, largely kept in the bottom drawer where they’re hard to find. Yet this week, our Government Accountability Office issued a report concluding that by year’s end, the Iraqi government – the regime in power because we put them there – may have a budget surplus as high as $79 billion.
Iraq, as in “war torn” Iraq. A surplus! Seventy-nine billion after we’ve poured $100 billion a year into that country and more than 4100 American lives – so far. Seventy-nine billion based on the record prices we’re paying at the gas pumps, and they’re not spending it on rebuilding, on getting their electrical systems back on the grid, constructing schools and hospitals and housing, making sure everyone has food and clean water. Between 2005 and 2007, the GAO report says, only ten percent of the Iraqi budget went toward reconstruction of their own country, which means that once again, American taxpayers have been picking up the slack – $48 billion US allocated for reconstruction costs since we rolled into Baghdad more than five years ago.

By the way, that includes $33 million for a new hotel, office complex and shopping mall at the Baghdad airport. Admittedly, a lot of those billions doubtless line the pockets of American contractors who’ve done little if any of what they were hired to do – and endangered Iraqis and our own troops with shoddy, dangerous workmanship. But remember what former Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told Congress back in 2003, before the war? “We’re dealing with a county that can really finance its own reconstruction,” he said, “and relatively soon.”
Remember, too, what Colin Powell told President Bush before we invaded Iraq – you break it, you buy it. Julius Caesar came, saw and conquered. George W. Bush broke and bought, and we just keep paying, in money and blood, while billions of oil profits pile up in Iraq as “surplus.”


TrackBack

TrackBack URL for this entry:
http://www.pbs.org/moyers/mt4/mt-tb.cgi/1678

Comments

I think that we should pull back are troops from the war in Afganistan.

Tom Crowl: How do YOU benefit from Chagora (sounds like a prawn-eating orgy)? Do you take a cut from our change when you bundle it? Or do you set the agenda by determining the recipients? Or do you kingdom-build your development directorship into a power play? Or do you enjoy hobnobbing with the trendy progressive elite? Or do you give positions to your family and associates, or trade these perks with your not for profit peers? What you think is in your heart may actually reside in your wallet.

I have warned people again and again that the upper middle-class fund-raising model is obsolete. You can't hope to compete a dollar on the thousand with the wealthy class interests. Money ain't where it's at now! (See Mighty Obama running with the golden football? Will McCain get beer distributerships in Iraq and Afghanistan?)Try PEOPLE POWER.

CHAGORA (under closed beta testing - FAQ available on site) is the response to a NECESSITY for the Online enablement of legal Non-Partisan & Fluid Money-Speech in a practical way for the Average Citizen along with social Networking Capabilities along Electoral/Geographic Lines in the political arena.

These characteristics are FUNDAMENTAL requirements for proper functioning of representative governing systems above a certain scale.

(If the verbiage seems confusing - Chagora is about allowing people to throw small change at causes and candidates they believe in easily and frequently together with others... and those with some mathematical/technical understanding may have some suspicion that this could be a lot more powerful than may be apparent at first.)

This is the essential and neglected "other side" of campaign finance reform.

CHAGORA changes the paradigm from "most people never contribute to political causes or campaigns" to "most people DO!"

And even more important are the ultimate benefits on the local level... not just one damn campaign every four years for one person (as if one person could fix all the problems without addressing the underlying systemic issues!)

See www.Chagora.com (under beta testing)
blog at http://CulturalEngineer.blogspot.com
video at: www.YouTube.com/CulturalEngineer

P.S. Media: I'm not really into being a public person, but there is an interesting David/Goliath story here since I do understand how difficult it is to get across complex ideas as opposed to an emotional story. I'm seeing in a very practical way how difficult it is for minor candidates and ideas, whether local or national to get a hearing without big money or institutional support... which is exactly what CHAGORA is addressing. Of course, maybe this is a stupid idea and I'm an idiot... I'll take a chance... if you can get a story out of it with that approach... GO FOR IT!

Regards,
Tom Crowl
Civilization Systems LLC

Are You Kneady?(A Figgers Commentary)

Gladiola and I, being old ladies, remembered how the bakeries used to sell iced gingerbread men (and women). We went to baking bread instead because our crowd here at Figgers gets too much sugar. The bread in the stores is either doughy or very expensive with a plethora of ingredients home baked bread doesn’t need. It was at that point we expanded upon the concept of bread as freedom.

Not so strange I said, since Christian imagery is cannibalistically sadistic, with the bread body and the wine blood. “Yep,” added Gladdy, “Freedom isn’t free. They make us fight for it or at least pay double every day.” We decided “freedom fighting” was for the pitbulls, something our owners could wager over and get off on. Maybe that’s why life in America now seems so strange and artificial.

Freedom, ideally, should be analogous to bread, and be something collectively achieved through a cooperative small scaled capitalism. Some people run the granary, others plant, harvest and refine, but the cherishers of democracy bake a wholesome and delicious bread daily for everyone to enjoy. You can do it well in a small bakery or in your kitchen but the quality suffers with scale. It’s probably accountability. Mass produced corporate bread (or freedom) is the worst: Eventually someone adds sawdust like AT&T.

I was listening to the radio as the sourdough baked. An heir to the Johnson& Johnson fortune was recounting the peculiarities of the wealthy class. Now they are ashamed to fly their luxury planes and some drive luxury Priuses. He told how they longed for a Depression to put working people in their place. “We know what to do with money and you don’t,” a caller quoted a well-endowed acquaintance.” Johnson said he’d known that sentiment to be true from the early 1970s to the present. A truck driver called to suggest then that the coming Depression might have been planned or engineered. The host and guest laughed it off. (I didn’t.)

There is something in a hierarchy that loves bondage and discipline, sadomachoscism for its own sake. We are a strictly classed society with very little upward mobility whether we like it or not, and wealth disparity is intensifying. I think it is no wonder that sensitive people like myself are repelled by media (news, movies, games, Internet, TV, even humor) increasingly focused on dominance and lurid violence. There was a documentary about the Congo on PBS that night I had to turn off because of the way sadistic rape and torture by soldiers was related. If there were not a massive appetite this stuff wouldn’t air.

The next morning, my elderly mother-in-law said the bread was tough because we kneaded it too much. She said America was built on violence starting with the scalping during Indian wars, and that normal people are always drawn to a spectacle of bloody suffering, whether it be a stabbing or a train wreck. (Speak for yourself, oh toothless one. And soak your freedom in gravy.) As I worked that day to satisfy my predatory employer I couldn’t wait for lunchtime freedom (homebaked bread and home grown tomatoe with cheese) and I thought about her critical words. Freedom is tough in this country, maybe because we need (knead) it too much, more now than ever.

“Keep your damn sawdust buns, Food Lion!”

Mr. Moyers: your superb program is my Friday night ritual. Tonights was just an exceptionally riveting one for me. I will get the book tomorrow. Thank you for having Prof. Bacevich on your show. Hugh Cochran 8/15/08
Eugene, OR

It is sad that we have people with minds as Mr. Basevich and the two political parties can come up with no better canidates than they have. How many civializations have been lost to history because they could not live within their means?

Is there any way we can get Bacevich to give the Keynote Address at both the Democratic and Republican conventions? How about they just replay this lecture instead of a Keynote Address?

If Professor Bacevitch is right that we have become Imperialist Consumers (The American Nightmare), then Pogo was right, "We have met the enemy and he (she) is us." I agree with him that the Democratic Congressmen (women) are lily livered cowards beginning with the mealy mouthed Nancy Pelosi. They could have ended the war but continued funding it and posturing. We need to throw them out, but if we do, who do we get to represent us? The horror is they do represent us. America is not only greedy and materialist, it is cowardly and incompetent. The best way to make a fool of yourself is to abandon the love of wisdom. That American has done. We are kidding ourselves if we think will not get our comeuppance.

I was deeply moved by the wisdom and insight of Prof Bacevich's discussion of his book The Limits of Power and the inherent irrationality of public policy for decades he outlined . I would have only a small exception in his reference to Bush policy to have been to democratize the Middle East which was only a late excuse to attempt to justify the invasion of Iraq. No one had any interest in Washington in democratizing the Middle East. The core explaanation is to be found in the little discussed planned construction of over 100 permanent military bases in Iraq . This was an attempted geopolitical coup d'etat to take over Iraq , get its oil into the hands of US and British companies and militarily dominate the Middle East while making the friends of the administration very rich incidentally. It was an insane plan conceived by ignorant people. The greatest tragedy was the failure of a united military leadership to speak truth to power as Prof Bacevich said. Gen Kinshecki was alone in having the guts to do it The rest were chicken and the people as a result the victims

Hallelujah! Bill Moyers does keep at it until he finds someone who gets said things that need to be said. Mr. Bacevich even reminded us that President Carter told us the truth and we didn't want to listen.

I don't have answers. The program has just ended where I live and I wanted to add my amen.

Our Public Square is Broken!

I'm a member of no political party... because I care very very much about the future of our nation specifically and representative government in general.

There is technology able to empower us "little people" in politics! It's about the POWER of Small Money, Large Numbers & Immediate Feedback.

By enabling very small online political contribution in amounts under $1...along with ways to network with your neighbors on both local and national issues... EASILY & OFTEN we WILL open the system and force the politician to listen to his/her TRUE employer!

We are preparing for a beta test. I'm facing poverty in my effort to put this together and I hope you will find out more about this. We really need to get the word out.

Incumbents won't rock their own boats until they must.

Short video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhwrcb_iCjE and FAQ at www.Chagora.com (under construction)

CAPABILITY ENABLES RESPONSIBILITY!

Both MicroDonation and Electoral/Geographic Networking Capabilities are "Proximity Substitutes" for no longer extant conditions which were present when self-government developed.

Republicans and democrats are two talons on the same bird of prey. They Suck one and all.

I think that there are a lot of greedy people that are war profiteers who need to pay for the Iraq disaster. all of the Republicans who supported the war should pay too.

Every great republic comes and goes. Our leaders have sold out the common man and his family. They ruined the education system, health care system, retirement system and so on. Remember it is easier to control uneducated unarmed peasents. In the end the meak will inherit the earth because there will only be scorched earth that humans can barely survive on after greed has run it's course. Oh ya, then the people will revolt and an era of unimaginable carnage will take place. If you think technology is going to save the planet your stupid and probably taking some government sanctioned anti depressant/anxiety drug. Face reality my friends Uncle Sam has raped you. God bless America it is still the greatest...Ever.

Fascism on auto-pilot: Why Massa Caint Read

Carl Icahn, T. Boone Pickens, Mitt Romney, Mayor Blumberg, even Ross Perot and Bill Gates, I submit, are cultural and political illiterates. They are systems men; just the godheads of greed, poking out of the ass crack of a much larger monster. They contrast starkly with the Founding Fathers or even the robber barons in that the naked emperor, wielder of naked power, has devolved into a tapeworm, possessing only vestigial organs of self-sufficiency.

Let’s savor these images as I pose related questions. Why were thirty somethings and younger citizens so taken with the Matrix concept? Why are business graduates (and loan paying dropouts) often so taken with the bootstrap ideologies of libertarianism? Why are there so many fools on the Moyers blog who suggest a slight tweak of the Constitution or federal statutes will solve all our problems. These questions have a systematic answer. We live within and are at the mercy of an alien organism that is now seemingly beyond human control, which appears to be self-serving in the short term, and has strategies and power to defend itself.

Romantic libertarians have closed their senses and reasoning to the existence of this organism and are in denial. They revert to primitive ideas and myths, blaming everyone who is not striving for celebrity status. The denial extends to collateral problems like global warming and wealth disparity.

Systems believers argue that Bigmen somewhere still control the beast, or that if citizens will vote correctly or contact their representatives, a course correction can be made. They will often assert their experience or status within the system, suggesting that they are master players of the game, and that everything will work out. Patriarchy is sometimes integral to their agenda and they may see religious conformity as one spoke in the smooth wheel of corporate citizenship and natural hierarchy.

Matrix types have resigned themselves to “living in interesting times.” They take it as they find it, seeking freedom of expression in the interstitial spaces, and not expecting much change unless there is a power failure. Not just they, but most of us, would be helpless if practical self-sufficiency were called for. I include the libertarians clothed in Chinese made garments and eating food like substances from Walmart.

Now that I have maligned both the supposed victors and victims, you ask, who or what else can I blame? Even the Internet has turned ugly and dangerous because of greed, sadism and commercialism. It now serves the corporations more than the resistance, and so we expect discriminating and critical behavior even from grannies and small children when they use it. Where are we when we enter cyberspace?

Jack Martin theorizes that the reason computers are always so “user unfriendly” is because they were conceived and designed as the brain of an artificial personhood, the business corporation. Under our 14th Amendment, says the Supreme Court, corporations are special persons with rights and powers exceeding those of normal flesh and blood citizens. After about 1990 computer automation meant that they could begin to act out their self-advancing and self-preserving powers without much input from human management. The economic system was so dependent upon their speed of computation and memory that they assumed control like genius eunuchs in the idiot emperor’s court.
I go farther than Jack to observe that this collective corporate brain is the place we visit whenever we surf the Net, and that we are infected by its invasive powers in every aspect of our existence. This would explain why political procedure and government power have now become such a fraud and sham.

While there remain a few clowns who can shut off the grid or “starve the corporate beast” I suggest we must confront them with a Mass Quorum of People Power in order to regain consensus control of our lives and this planet. Yes, I blame corporate capitalism, with its lazy road to automation and human detritus, for the endangerment of life on this planet.
But I do not have a prescription for a new ideal system or ideology.

I think Empire has passed for the United States and that the World, if life is to continue here, faces a lower energy future and a decreased human population. Our biology is integral to the natural systems on Earth and science has in no way synthesized a substitute environment for us. The variety of bacteria inhabiting our bodies must feel somewhat the same way as we do in our corporate flora and fauna functions. The difference is that the corporate monster is man-made and is destroying everything that sustains us, including our culture and our minds. Isn’t it time we become deadly viruses?

So you see now why successful people haven’t a clue. Computers do their thinking.

Note: I want to thank Jack Martin and Coley for their help in formulating these ideas. I would be interested in hearing from readers and critics at beretco.op@gmail.com. I am a 51 year old woman who has worked mostly as an electrician and lighting technician. I recently married and am now co-director of Figgers Institute as well as enjoying my new role as a housewife here in Dallas, N.C. (It’s plenty different from New Jersey.)

I have always appreciated your thoughtful commentaries, but I think you missed the mark on this one about Iraq needing to use their surplus funds to rebuild their country.

If someone comes into my house uninvited and destroys it, it seems to me that they have a moral and legal obligation to rebuild it. I don't relish saddling my grandchildren with paying for Bush's disastrous policies, but morally what choice do I have?

I think that what Colin Powell meant when he said "you break it, you own it" was that the Untied States will be responsible for restoring that country if we destroy it. That is the only ethical position I believe we can take, no matter how distasteful. I wish there were a way to compel the supporters of this war to foot the bill, but I am unaware of any law that would require that.

I watch your show on friday Aug 8 and your guests were dead on how the economy have gone on since the republicans took over everything. Good work!!

Also, Mr. Moyers your introductory speech about Iraq having a surplus. FYI, most of the US spending on Iraq goes to your army, contractors, permanent bases and embassy. I fail to see why you would just repeat right wing talking point that Iraq is not spending its surplus. As soon as you leave they will.

Don't forget that the reason banking industry invented the sub-prime loan was due to liberal groups complaining that poor people could not get loans because of racism. Lesson for all never think you won the battle when your opponent has given you what you wanted. They have just shifted their attack to different location.

Sometimes your logic is really faulty as in this case. It is the obligation of US to pay for Iraq rebuilding whether they have surplus or not.

Post a comment

THE MOYERS BLOG is our forum for viewers' comments intended for discussing and debating ideas and issues raised on BILL MOYERS JOURNAL. THE MOYERS BLOG invites you to share your thoughts. We are committed to keeping an open discussion; in order to preserve a civil, respectful dialogue, our editors reserve the right to remove or alter any comments that we find unacceptable, for any reason. For more information, please click here.

THE MOYERS BLOG
A Companion Blog to Bill Moyers Journal

Your Comments

Podcasts

THE JOURNAL offers a free podcast and vodcast of all weekly episodes. (help)

Click to subscribe in iTunes

Subscribe with another reader

Get the vodcast (help)

For Educators    About the Series    Bill Moyers on PBS   

© Public Affairs Television 2008    Privacy Policy    DVD/VHS    Terms of Use    FAQ