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

« Power Reading: A Final Note | Main | An Age of American Unreason? »

Where Does (And Should) The Money Go?

In the JOURNAL this week, WHERE DOES THE MONEY GO? authors and budget scrutinizers Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson contend that Washington’s fiscal irresponsibility is propelling America toward troubled times.

Scott Bittle said:

“Eventually, if nothing is done, by 2040 every dollar the federal government has will be taken in by Social Security, Medicare, and interest on the money we’ve already borrowed... Right now, one of the few areas of bipartisanship in Washington is the willingness not to deal with the problem... The war is certainly making our financial problems worse. But it’s not the sole cause and it’s not the sole answer."

Jean Johnson said:

“People don’t realize that the country has been in the red 31 out of the last 35 years, in good times and bad... There is no way to solve this problem without either raising taxes or cutting programs, or doing some of both. Right now that is a political death sentence, and we have to change that... We’re all gonna have to give a little and we’re all gonna have to live with some things that are not our first choice, but not doing anything is so much worse.”

What do you think?

  • How, if at all, do you suggest the tax code be altered to ease the government’s fiscal crunch?
  • What, if any, programs should be reduced or cut to balance the budget?
  • What other suggestions do you have to bring the federal budget into the black?


  • TrackBack

    TrackBack URL for this entry:
    http://blogs.pbs.org/moyers/mt3/mt-tb.cgi/1256

    Comments

    Solution of majority of problem and everything else will fall into place so that all(not only the elite) americans can once again prosper would be to do away with borrowing from the private banks(Federal Reserve) which isn't even a federal program, that was sneakingly made by 8 well to do men(private bankers) on a small Island that charges interest to loans given to government. We can go back to Gold and regain value and have no taxes and low cost interest for all. Go on a pay as you go system where people run the government instead of the elite benefiting off others hard work who get nothing in return. We cannot continue to allow private banks, wasteful agencies, lobbyists, corporations on welfare, and governments collecting foreign aid to dictate the size of our ballooning budget. We need a new method to prioritize our spending.
    So called free trade deals and world governmental organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), NAFTA, GATT, WTO, and CAFTA are a threat to our independence as a nation. They transfer power from our government to unelected foreign elites. Americans need good paying jobs for all, instead of the few greedy reeping it all.

    Dear Mr. Moyers,
    The following is a copy of an email I sent to the House Financial Services Committee: I understand some big banks would like to weaken the bond ratings agencies such as Standard & Poors. My question is, with all the problems we have had in the past, I believe the bond ratings agencies should be STRENGTHENED. We have to know ahead of time what direction the economy is going because up to now, most of the business has been going to China. You can't keep borrowing from Social Security forever. Our dollar is at new lows and if Senator Obama follows through and TAXES THE HEDGE FUND DEALERS, you would find out just exactly why those DERIVATIVES that are circulating are virtually WORTHLESS and the fact that they should have kept the Glass-Stegall Act according to the testimony given by Robert Kuttner on October 2, 2007 before your committee. Also, "As Warren Buffett famously put it, you never know who is swimming naked until the tide goes out."
    Yours truly, Disgusted Middleclass Taxpayer, LaVern Isely

    Dear Mr. Moyers,
    Fed Chm. Ben Bernanke didn't have to go down the road to bailing out the investment bankers. He should have contacted the IRS and found out--WHAT ARE DERIVATIVES? Because he knew how the HEDGE FUND DEALERS were using them. It sure would have saved the FBI a lot of work and if that didn't work, then they should do like they do over in England when Northern Rock got in trouble, they nationalized it in February of this year. Do that just once and they will get regulations and reinstate the Glass-Stegall Act. Why take it out on us overtaxed middleclass taxpayers?
    Yours truly, LaVern Isely

    The two main steps that I think need to be taken are : (1)Raise taxes on the top ten percent of income earners (and especially on the top two percent), and on the largest, most profitable corporations. (2) Cut the military budget in half. If wasteful spending on useless high-tech boondoggles were to be eliminated, we would could cut the military budget in half and still increase spending on the rank and file soldiers, sailors, etc(higher pay, better benefits, and especially, better treatment for wounded vets, including those suffering from PTSD). I would eliminate the star wars missile defence scam, and any other high-priced, high- tech weapons systems that are unwanted by the military.

    Don 2-23 12:16AM Fla. passed a lottery with your argument, but the politicans took out of the education budget an amt. equak to what the lottery supplied & Fla. Bright Scholors scholarships are to be funded by the lottery, but due to revenue shortfalls dropping or reducing it was considered! --trusting govt. with the numbers racket (lottery) is risky!

    Also, Congress has an incentive plan--seem to rock the boat, but keep the tax money flowing in & then out to earmarks.
    Respectfully,
    Billy Bob, Fla.

    The tax code should be modified to a flat tax starting at roughly $50,000 of income. I think as American citizens we can afford to give this "break" to those under this threshold regardless of age.

    We need to insist that federal agencies justify their existence. We can always target the large programs i.e. Social Security, Medicare, etc., but a thorough review from bottom to top would probably eliminate many programs whose purpose was accomplished many years ago. How many of you have continued performing a task just because it was necessary for some forgotten reason?

    Our Republican leadership continues to insist that they are fiscal conservatives. I believe a fiscal conservative lives within their means and uses additional tax revenues when emergency expenditures exceed current revenues. I think tax increases should be for specific programs, projects, etc with a sunset date. However, our fiscally conservative leadership has operated as deep pocket spenders during the last 7 years and have the audacity to complain if someone mentions the possibility of raising taxes. I ask, how else are we going to balance the budget? The Bush leadership is not willing to reduce expenditures, nor review any our our current problem areas, i.e. Social Security.

    America's finances are a mess. It will take belt tightening, strong leadership and painful tax increases to reverse this trend.

    Because Jim Bullis is a sincere engineer I cut him some slack on the Miastrada. Even Bucky Fuller built and drove a few prototypes. His concern about coal versus efficency is right on. My philosophy is "Bikes Not Bombs" which is compatible. See Lester Brown's lecture about the waning coal plant boom ar Earth Policy Institute. (I don't use links:You can google.)

    At my folk school we don't talk enough about Social Security, but some of us are retired or disabled on it. Ravi Batra of SMU wrote an entire book about Greenspan's Fraud outlining how the 1983 FICA tax boost was unfair and unnecessary.
    (SS has always been a target of Benthamite conservatives who believe labor can only be extracted through hunger.) A Christian friend came to me with tears in her eyes describing how pitiful the institutionalized elderly are in Cuba, fed barely enough to live, denied the powdered molk that is in such short supply. Laura, I said, haven't you seen the rest home squalor and neglect here at home, with the jello and instant potatoes? It's bad in Cuba, made worse by the embargo, but elderly disposal is everywhere when we don't value older people. Our only solution is to involve them in our activities as much as possible, and to treat them as fully human.
    (I realize some dying people need only care.) The little money some get from SS is their only dignity and it can be penury. (25% of people 65 and over work and others want employment.) And here we have idealogues who wedge the older population against the young, telling the kids that each must support 2 retirees. This is madness in an economt where the SS fund has been robbed repeatedly for war (Is Cuba next?) and millionaire's tax cuts. Universal healthcare (single payer) would solve Medicare and much of SS because it would become a mandated priority no longer imbezzled. And don't those robbers owe reparations? It's much different retiring after 40 years in construction than after 30 years pushing stocks, bonds and mutual funds after graduate school, Maybe the rich could retire much, much later. (They are purportedly so exceedingly productive.) A country can be effectively judged by how it treats its lesser abled citizens: But it seems we excel at producing destitute and disabled masses. And now our think tanks say: "Jettison the Waste!" If that's intellectual achievement I will take no part in it.

    Jim Bullis and I need a good battery: any ideas?

    Curiously, solving the money problem is about who should get taxed. Or who's benefits should get cut. No doubt there are some adjustments needed. But it would be a lot better to fix this with methods based on a re-invigorated industrial system.

    My commenting friend Jack Martin wrote under the heading, Assessing the Economic Growth Package, remembered, "(Old Speaker Jim Wright told Reagan,"You can't have an economy by washing each others cars and delivering pizza: Voodoo economics is a debt recipe with Depression sauce.")" Somehow Reagan escaped the Depression Sauce outcome. Not to get too excited about Reaganomics, where a gamble with debt paid off, yet there was an invigorating effect of his policies that helped business get revitalized.

    Somehow, that recipe does not seem to be working now, which might suggest that it was more than that recipe that made things get better in the 1980's.

    I do not recommend the answer in a plan presented by General Motors,
    http://fastlane.gmblogs.com/PDF/presentation-sm.pdf. This plan seems to embrace electric vehicles as the way to "shift more energy to transportation", this to have an effect of reducing the use of oil. It could do that, even though there is no mention of making cars more efficient. It could also reduce the kind of pollution that makes smog. It is not said, but my analysis of this plan concludes that the real shift will be from oil to coal. The co2 impact would disastrous, if global warming effects are anything like the general consensus view. Bob Lutz of GM made the famous statement, "Global Warming is a Crock --", and it seems that this is indeed the GM view. As I said, I do not recommend this approach. But it might enable GM to produce more large vehicles.

    I advocate a plan where the US motor vehicle industry was mobilized to produce a very different kind of vehicle. This type of vehicle would greatly reduce energy waste, and would also enable greatly reduced waste in electric power generation.

    Probably the biggest impediment to this is public taste in motor vehicle fashion. The problem is that a truly innovative vehicle is bound to look very different from the usual fare served up by Detroit, in response to our demand. It might be a lucky thing if a crisis in oil supplies occurred, such that we had to re-examine how we do things, and make demand for dramatically more effective products.

    The Automotive X Prize is a competition organized to encourage significant innovation, yet they emphasize practical aspects of cars. This could lead to some answers in innovative products, but also in products on which to base renewed industrial activity.

    Miastrada Corp (my project) plans to enter an unusual vehicle in that competition. An idea of how a different vehicle could look can be seen at http://www.miastrada.com.

    EMPOWER THE LEADER FOR “REAL CHANGE”!

    Nader running for president
    Consumer advocate announces third-party bid on ‘Meet the Press’


    updated 10:33 a.m. ET, Sun., Feb. 24, 2008
    WASHINGTON - Ralph Nader is launching a third-party campaign for president.
    The consumer advocate made the announcement Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." He says most Americans are disenchanted with the Democratic and Republican parties, and that none of the presidential contenders are addressing ways to stem corporate crime and Pentagon waste and promote labor rights.
    Last month, Nader began an exploratory presidential campaign and launched a Web site that promises to fight "corporate greed, corporate power, corporate control."

    Here are my top objections to raising taxes to address government deficits:

    1. In total, more than 50 percent of my wages are already confiscated by my government in taxes. At some point, I will be unwilling to work "for free."
    2. More than 90 percent of those tax dollars are lost to fraud, corruption, graft, and war profiteering.
    3. The income tax is immoral and unconstitution. (If you don't understand why, get on the web and find out.)
    4. The Founders of our country made no provision in the U.S. Constitution for an income tax -- and for good reason. (If you don't understand why, get on the web and find out.)
    5. Wages are not "income" or a "gain" but a means of survival in an economy based on "division of labor," which, incidentally, makes it all but impossible for anyone to opt-out and be self-sufficient.
    6. Given Objections 2, 3, and 5, taxes on wages are a form of slavery.
    7. Years back, the FICA tax was raised to 12.4 percent to "save Social Security." Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Don't believe them!

    Given all of the above, I suggest that the time has come for a nationwide, wage-earners strike whereby everyone refuses to file a Federal and State income tax form and strikes his or her particular company if it continues to confiscate wages as tax. We, the people, need to wake up, stand up, and refuse to enable the ongoing fraud, corruption, and confiscation.

    Hopefully, the following few sentences sound familiar...

    "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    Now read it again and, while you do, think about George Bush, The War Against Terror, the Patriot Act, secret miliary prisons, the IRS. Think about the deficits and the enormous sums of interest central bankers of the world collect on that debt. Think about the $2.3 trillion the Pentagon cannot account for. Think about earmarks, the "subsidies" Enron received up its collapse, all the jobs NAFTA created for American manufacturers (in Mexico, China, and Central Asia). Think about the recent student loan scandals and the $200,000 it now costs to go to college. Think about the credit-card industry that wrote, word for word, the "Bankrupcy Reform Act of 2005," the pharmaceutical industry that wrote, word for word, "Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit" legislation. Think about [fill in the blank]...

    Nuf said.

    PutCongress on an incentive plan. Start by eliminating their health care and pensin benefits until they find a way to raise or cut money from the budget that equals the amount of said benefits. Or perhaps give them an incentive to balance the budget. For each year they balance the budget they get a one lump sum payment equal to one years pay, tax free.

    Institute a national lottery, so what if it competes with the states, people live on the hope of winning a lottery and they will continue to play both - state & national. Assuming the numbers support the effort offer 25 to 50 weekly $1,000,000 tax free prizes. Earmark the revenue for a specific purpose, e. g., education, social security, debt reduction, etc. And clearly show how it off-sets taxes.

    How to change the tax code? Take them one at a time. How about this one "Tax free dividends". Figure out the amount a family uses to buy food, shelter, transport etc. devided by the number of family members and thats the maximum amount of dividends or whatever that you can have tax free.

    The Decade of Progressive Sacrifice

    For one special decade, great sacrifice is offered for the benefit of our grandchildren. Everyone is enouraged to "give 'til it hurts". And while the poor may not be able to give more than a button, there are yet others of whom it would take millions and millions before any real pain would be felt...unless they really are that fragile. Might do 'em some good.

    There are greater rewards from giving it up, than from hanging on to it. At least that's what Meister Eckhart said, but I think he's still dead.

    Love the show. You're more than relevant. You're a legend.


    Bill Moyers guessed it: Listening to the interview with Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson I wondered "why is he airing this Right-wing Republican garbage? I kept wondering: if the rest of the industrialized world can give its citizens universal healthcare and decent retirement benefits, certainly the USA "the richest country in the world" can do so, if it just (a) starved the military instead of the poor, (b) reduced inequality of income and wealth (Universal healthcare would help that, as would restoring a progressive tax system). The right-wing nature of the interviewees was revealed by their referring to military expenditures as for "the war on terror" --a real give-away that they are little Bushies. I kept thinking: why is this on the Moyers journal: don't we get enough of this propaganda on CNN, FOX, and the Wall Street journal program? Apparently many other loyal Moyers-watchers were similarly appalled! I hope that beyond posting these comments, you will follow some of the posted suggestions for airing correctives.

    To Gary 2-20-2:00PM
    What was the Japanese Ambassador doing in Washington while his country was launching its war ships to Pearl Harbor?
    What was England's & the USA's relationship with Russia during WWII?
    What did the USA do to Japan & Germany after WWII?
    Enemies yesterday-friends today.
    Why does the USA remain friends with Saudia Arabia & Egypt after 9-11 esp. given the human rights records of both?
    Why would the USA have helped Iraq in its war with Iran?
    Here's a thought: The USA couldn't attack Saudia Arabia & Egypt after 9-11 without big problems with oil supplies, so we sent Shock & Awe to let countries supporting terrorist see what may be in store if they did not stop attacks on Am. soil. So, they just raised the price on oil-so the USA devalued the dollar-so what does this have to do with our budget? I was around during the oil embargo of the 70s & our fiscal budget could really be in trouble if we don't associate with un-American countries & individuals.

    Regarding the DoD and the GWOT spending:

    Osama Bin Laden, must, above all, be remembered as a former CIA asset, rather than a representative of Islam. Quo Bono? Muslims?

    CIA nitpicks. They didn't Fedex money and weapons directly to OBL. No, they financed "the nexus of Hekmatyar and Bin Laden", later known as Al-Qaeda. With pleasure. And they sent weapons directly to OBL associates, even according to Norman Solomon at FAIR describing the media's and Republicans' and Pentagon's Al-Qaeda lovefest of the 80's, supporting the most vicious and violent psychopaths.

    Brzezinski's plan, implemented under Carter BEFORE the Soviet invasion, was to LURE the Soviets to INVADE Afghanistan, so then there would be an excuse to drive them out and bog them down. He said so.

    Republicans ramped-up this plan, which was backed by the Heritage Foundation and their THREE Al-Qaeda lobby groups (i.e. for "the people of Afghanistan"). The Christian Coalition said it was UNPATRIOTIC to not support the Islamic Radicals, and that any Cong that voted against this did not deserve a seat! Well.

    Years later, the Republican Policy Committee -- donning tinfoil hats? -- produced a detailed and footnoted "conspiracy theory" report that said that Al-Qaeda was still running joint ops with the Pentagon and private Pentagon proxy MPRI, and that President Clinton signed off on this. This report was in 1997, and other reports show this continued through 1999, 2000, and even late 2001, AFTER Sept 11. "Osamagate" details this with footnotes, and notes that apparently the RNC itself buried their own report.

    The Osamagate article concludes that this evidence does not necessarily prove that Sept 11 was an "inside job", but it DOES necessarily prove that it was not what they told us it was, because you cannot have an "outside enemy attacking you" when you are at the same time running joint military operations with that very "enemy".

    However, the sensible overall conclusion is that the GWOT is a complete fraud. What do YOU call it when (allegedly) an 'agent of the Pentagon/CIA' attacked us on Sept 11?

    What do you call it when the boldest public pronouncements FOR a bloodbath on American soil (as absolutely necessary to kick-start the GWOT) came from Neo-Con think tanks like PNAC and AEI, as well as other "liberal" think tanks like Brookings, CFR, and TLC? I'll tell you what I call it: POLICY.

    I second the opinion of the poster above who cited the excellent comment by economist Dean Baker of CEPR (cepr.net), in his 'Beat the Press' Weekly Roundup, 2/19/08' piece. The reporting in this Moyers show on the 'deficit problem' was shockingly unbalanced, not to say economically ignorant.

    From The 'Beat the Press' Weekly Roundup, 2/19/08, I quote Dean Baker of CEPR:

    February 15, 2008
    Bill Moyers Goes off the Deep-End on the Deficit, Again
    The budget deficit has been somewhat larger in recent years than it should have been but very few economists see this as a crisis. Over the long-term, the budget is projected to face serious problems but, as the Congressional Budget Office has pointed out, this is primarily due to the projected increase in health care costs.

    Since the government pays for approximately half of national health care costs through Medicare, Medicaid and other public sector programs, if health care costs follow the projected path, then it will lead to major fiscal problems for the federal government. Of course, if health care costs rise as projected, the increase will also have a devastating impact on the private sector. The moral of the story to any serious analyst is that the United States must get its health care costs under control; something that every other wealthy country has managed to do.

    Unfortunately, there is a whole army of deficit fear mongers who have tried to use the projected explosion of health care costs as a pretext for cutting important government programs like Social Security. One of the generals in this army is Peter Peterson, an incredibly rich investment banker who has garnered tens of millions of dollars of tax breaks that allowed him to pay a lower tax rate on his earnings than school teachers and firefighters pay on their earnings. Peterson was most recently in the public eye for lobbying Congress to protect the "fund manager tax subsidy."

    However when he is not lobbying Congress to protect the tax break that has allowed him and other very wealthy people to evade billions of dollars of taxes, Mr. Peterson is lobbying Congress to cut Social Security. He has repeatedly told audiences that "I don't need my Social Security" (after getting hundreds of millions in tax breaks, who would?), which he then uses as a justification for cutting Social Security benefits for tens of millions of workers who have paid for them.

    Mr. Peterson started the Concord Coalition, which has cutting Social Security as a top agenda item. He is also starting a new foundation devoted to this purpose. His track record earned him a solo appearance on Bill Moyers Journal a few years back, in which he got the opportunity to go his tirade against Social Security and other government programs without any correction from experts who understood the issues. Moyers again opened his show tonight to deficit fear mongers, again without any rebuttals from experts with knowledge of the issues.

    Just to note a few of the misleading comments from the piece:

    1) it pointed out that we ran deficits in 31 of the last 35 years and implied that this is a serious problem. In fact, the country can run deficits every single year forever. What matters is the size of the deficits and whether the debt is rising relative to GDP. The U>S. ran deficits in almost every year from 1945 to 1980, yet its ratio of debt to GDP fell from 117.5 percent to 33.5 percent. We could have stayed on this track indefinitely.

    2) The piece made a big point of telling viewers that the debt is now $9 trillion "with a 't'." It is likely that most viewers know how to spell "trillion." This is a silly scare tactic that has no place in a serious discussion. The relevant question is the size of the deficit relative to GDP, which is now almost $15 trillion, also with a "t."

    3) The piece said that if we don't fix our budget situation then the government may not have enough money to pay Social Security benefits. Actually Social Security is supported by a designated tax that is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to keep the program fully funded until 2046 with no changes whatsoever. The idea of not paying Social Security benefits is presumably a favorite of the advocates that Moyers put on his show. They could have said, with at least as much accuracy, that the government would not have the money to repay the bonds held by investors. If the country ever does face a genuine fiscal crisis, this is likely to be at least as popular a fix to its problems. Of course, the wealthy would prefer a default on Social Security to a default on government bonds.

    Presumably Moyers is genuinely confused about the nature and causes of the country's deficit problems, but this is no reason to have such unbalanced shows. If he really believed that Peterson and his fellow deficit fear mongers are right, then they should have the opportunity to prove their case in open debate. After all, this is supposed to be public TV, not the Investment Bankers' Nightly News Hour.

    --Dean Baker "

    The problem with government is the same as the problem with people: overconsumption. Every service that government provides is DIRECTLY related to how much people WANT to SPEND. The solution lies in the FairTax bill, but the Democrats are too stupid to embrace it, and the Republicans are too rich to worry about it--yet. Every time we buy something, we increase the need for police, fire, military, and medicare. The more we spend, we exponentially increase our risks. The ONLY people who benefit from an income tax are those who can finagle a special consideration to get out of it or to get paid without people being able to change their mind. If consumers could see how much government and consumption costs them every time they pull out a credit card, then maybe we wouldn't be so beholden to other countries to provide junk we don't need and maybe our farmers could get paid for food instead of for fuel to support the advertising industry. Ban all advertising outside of 200 miles of where a product is sourced, also. No, these aren't politically correct suggestions. They are logical ones. Buy less, buy local: and the land and the people will go on. The government doesn't really matter.

    I fervently hope that you inquire further into this issue. If my Professor, Clifton Grubbs were still alive, I'd recommend that you have him on to expose Bittle and Johnson's strawman theory. But someone of Dr. Grubbs' caliber is available; he's the competent and forthright economist, Dean Baker.

    Last weeks guests completely disregarded the defense budget. Isn't the over $7 billion being spent every month on the Iraq War contributing to the national debt? It's clear now that this war was never about weapons of mass destruction, but about the greed of an oil man and a defense contractor (who just happen to be two "leaders of the free world"). Given this, doesn't anyone else want to know just how much of all that money has gone into the personal fortunes of our president and vice president? And, will they be paying taxes on that? It would be interesting to compare their worth going into the White House to their worth when they leave. Will we ever know?

    It’s generally accepted that the richest 1% of the US owns more than 30% of the country’s wealth, the top 10% more than 70% of the wealth, the top 20% hold more than 90% and the bottom 40% have less than 1%. To fix the economy, Biddle and Johnson place the onus squarely on those that have the least, both in terms paying more taxes and receiving fewer benefits. In other words, for wealth distribution, anything goes but when it comes to supporting the government, the burden should be shared all.

    Moderators, Diane D.
    Please get this to Bill and producers. I have been in personal contact with economist Dr. Ravi Batra of SMU and he has expressed his strong interest in appearing on the Journal to discuss some real solutions to the deficits strangling our economy. He has recently published several provocative books about these solutions. I have asked him to contact the Journal, but you can reach him at Southern Methodist University where he is still teaching. Please, the well-being of our nation depends upon it.

    Bittle and Johnson forfeited the vast bulk of their credibility by waiting more than seven years into the "W" era to suddenly discover a crisis which requires major sacrifice by the middle class. That they and Mr. Moyers would cite similar concerns from a billionaire (Bloomberg) as further proof of a crisis really disappoints. If these people really were looking out for the middle and poverty classes (which are fast becoming one and the same) they'd have been protesting loud & clear & constantly each of the tactics in the War on the Middle Class, including Cold War-era size Dept. of Defense/war budgets for the past decade (welfare for the military industrial complex), Republicans' massive tax cuts for the rich (welfare for the wealthy) and grotesquely low corporate tax rates from Reagan on (welfare for corporatocracy). If there is a crisis, it's not the doing of the middle & poverty classes and shills for the wealthy such as Bittle & Johnson have no business appearing on Mr. Moyers' Journal trying to sell their particular brand of billionaire bailout economic snake oil. Again, I'm REALLY disappointed that one of my heroes, Mr. Moyers, would give them such a soapbox.

    Eliminate all foreign military aid, including the $2.55 Billion for Israel, and cut the defense budget back to a budget that is really for defending the US in case of attack, not for fighting wars all over the world. Restructure the tax code so that people who make barely enough (or not enough) to live on pay no taxes at all, and people who have a surplus pay more - up to 80% of their surplus. This is how civilized countries maintain a decent standard of living for everyone. Eliminate tax breaks for foreign investment, and make investment that truly creates US jobs more advantageous.

    A balanced budget suggest $ spent are no greater than $ received. That is the black & white of it; BUT, the gray allows for $ spent to be limited to the $ obligated to be SENT OUT within the "budget period" & not include the total $ owed, (ex. a loan over 10 yrs. only the payment for that period would count).

    To balance a govt. budget requires only that our govt. be honest& fair. When that is figured out then all will be great!

    After all, look at the results, against great odds, our country delivered in WWII. OH! YEH! The free world was in the last inning before the USA acted as a unit for the good of all.
    More recently we have tried to get in the game by the 3rd inning in international affairs-maybe we won't wait till the 9th in our enocomic arena.
    Respectfully,
    Billy Bob 2-28-08 Fla.

    Since our country's culture has long entailed taking and not giving, complaining about "excessive" taxation, yet not recognizing how much they get for those taxes, I can't imagine any situation that will make the vast majority of Americans ungreedy enough to accept raising of taxes in order to fund all they are "entitled" to. We're demanding more health care from the government, yet refuse to pay more for it. My suggestion is that Americans chose from options such as one does in the HR department:
    1. You can chose to pay more in taxes and have full benefits in Social Security and Medicare.
    2. You can chose to pay less in taxes and be entitled to fewer SS/Medicare benefits.
    That way no-one is forced to pay taxes if they don't want to, but they can't later get the benefits that they didn't pay for. Sign me up for package 1!

    Hey Bill,

    If Bittle and Johnson want to fix the system then they should go straight to the money.
    No, the real money, all those corporations, owners and directors who use money to leverage their one puny vote into a vote that can reverse a law.
    Example: Glass-Steagall banking act. It was part of the New Deal legislation. It was in response to a house of cards investment scheme that helped precipitate the great depression.
    In 1999 president Clinton in a fit of "compromise" repealed the act - because the "money" wanted it so, and they promised that they had learned to play nice with the economy.
    Result?
    Sub-prime mortgage mess.
    Good for them.
    Bad for a lot of us.
    Do I need to say more?

    So if you really want to make America fiscally sound you need to start at the TOP not the bottom of the food chain.

    Corporate tax and tax credits need a whole lot of reform, especially when a company can make a billion or two and still get money back on tax filings.

    Nobody wants to be taxed at an unfair rate so a more level all inclusive tax would really be useful.

    Bittle and Johnson's programs to be reduced or cut started with social security.
    Wrong move cowboys and cowgirls:
    Social Security and the other so-called "welfare" programs of the New Deal; gave the working class people the financial security to make investing in the market feasible for them. Cut that investment stream and not only will alot of working people be hurting but a few investment bankers will also feel the pinch.

    We need to reduce the military budget. There are programs in there that run and then are stopped with no end product but to enrich a certain weapons manufacturer.
    Our defense budget is bigger then Russia's and China's combined.
    And we still can't supply our soldiers with top quality or even enough inferior stuff. What a shame.

    We have no real flagship technology program funding.
    The space program is under funded, a fiscal stepchild.
    Oh, it creates jobs here so that wouldn't be good would it?
    Every space program job creates thousands of supporting jobs, whoa, now there's some tax generation!

    The first thing we need to do is get people elected that will work for us.
    We need people who call home not a lobbist.

    Bill,
    How about having Naom Chomsky or
    Howard Zinn, or Alanna Hartzok (earthrts@pa.net) to counter those two
    idiots you had on last week.
    Joan

    Bill, the previous posters have all laid out the problems with the program, particularly the confusion of social security (not much of a problem) and medical costs and Medicare/Medicaid. When Mr. Petersen, Ms. Johnson, and Mr. Biddle say cut social security and Medicare, they are really saying that for most lower and working class Americans that they have to accept a decline in their living standards in old age and to accept that they will be denied medical care for their health problems if they can't not pay for it themselves. Meanwhile, Mr. Peterson only has to pay tax on 15% of his billion dollar annual income (thereabouts for his last year at Blackstone, before he took it public just before the market turned), and no doubt resents paying that much (the unproductive 90% of the country should pay for war). I would be willing to consider some change to Social Security to take into account longevity (say higher disability payments in return for a later retirement age for those fit to work), but not what Concord group has in mind, that is that that most of us should work, work, work and then drop dead. Have another show with Dean Baker, Paul Krugman, and Robert Reich so we can hear the other side of the story.

    Bill,

    There are three answers to the national debt; Cut defense spending, Eliminate the tax cuts to the wealthy, and raise the ceiling on social security. All of the answers I hear about this issue seem to focus on spending on "entitlements". No one talks about cutting the military budget. Why do we need 725 bases around the world? Why do we need multi-billion dollar submarines, bombers, aircraft carriers, and all of the other things that are for fighting a war we no longer face. Remember what happened to Russia when it lost the butter or guns argument. Why do we spend 50+% of the worlds budget on the military?

    We are now the worst nation on earth in the income disparity department. The haves have gotten everything in the past 8 years, and the number of people in poverty has grown. Average citizens cannot afford health insurance, and half of all bankruptcies are due to medical bills. Wealthy people get whatever care they need. They can afford to pay for it. The rest of us need national health insurance.

    Finally, why is it fair that Bill Gates pays social security for 15 seconds before he hits the cap on social security, while those making less than $95,000 pay on 100% of their income? The fair way is for every citizen to pay social security taxes on 100% of their income. One for all, and all for one. I have never heard that argument even brought up. It's time!

    Wow, Bill, two Establishment representatives you put on--Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson--unless they are worse than that. There was a lot of talk about the deficit, but little about the much more important issue: federal debt, and what the difference is between debt and deficit. A bigger issue still is: if the government can print money, why is it in debt?

    Why do you let propagandists on your show? Are you also an Establishment representative? I'm questioning your integrity more and more.

    Bill, why don't you talk about the real issues. See:
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-9050474362583451279
    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-515319560256183936

    Try talking about how the Federal Reserve is a private bank that institutionalizes usury on our entire nation's economy, for no reason! The Federal Debt is bogus; it is a tool for social control. The personal income tax is unconstitutional and there is no law requiring it.

    Bill, please talk about the bigger issues. Don't let the Establishment propagandists manipulate people using the platform of your show. You stand shamed.

    --
    We are being lied to; know the truth:
    http://www.ExcaliburBooks.com/RedAlert/

    Bill Moyers:

    Beware of the wolf in sheep's clothing!

    Authors Bittle & Johnson may not be what they seem.

    As a retiree on social security & medicare, the Concord Coalition and Heritage Foundation and their associates at Public Agenda, Bittle & Johnson, are not my friends. They want to eliminate or privitize SS & Medicare.

    The Reagan administration tried to "starve the beast" with budget cuts. When that didn't work, Reagan, and later, GW Bush, spent us into oblivion, supporting the military and going to war. The strategy changed to "feed the beast". Conservatives and their fellow travelers reason that when the deficit becomes intolerable, the American people will rise up and dump social security. Can you imagine 44 million retirees out in the cold.

    Your authors are part of the advance guard who want to pave the way for doubt about the cause of our deficit. They spent an inordinate amount of time blaming social security. Count the number of times the authors used the term "social security" during your interview.

    Please followup with a broader discussion of the subject.

    Jim

    Mmm, let's see. If we eliminate Medicare and Social Security, we'll definitely free up money for more defense programs, the space program, pork barrel programs and maybe even tax relief for the wealthiest citizens.

    Why worry about social programs and the environment because the earth is
    losing it's vital resources and will become uninhabitable. Someday soon, the wealthiest and best "connected" will get in their space craft and whoosh off to the next inhabitable location to start over. Dr. E. O. Wilson commented previously on this program:

    BILL MOYERS: Live in a synthetic ecosystem.

    E.O. WILSON Yes that's right or people who say, "Well, let's keep on going the way we're going. Let's use up the Earth. And-- and by that time, our smart scientists"-- trust me, I'm a scientist, and I-- I'm-- none of us could be very-- that smart. But they figure that they-- that by that time maybe we can make it to the next planet, terraform it, you know? Turn it into an Earth-like place and so forth. Dream on. This is crazy. This is the only planet we're ever going to have. This planet has taken-- tens, hundreds of millions of years to create this beautiful natural environment we have that's taken care of us so well that is, in fact, our greatest natural heritage. And we're throwing it away in a matter of a few decades.

    National health care? I remember reading about a British politician who, after WW II, shamed the British government into sponsoring their country's program. To paraphrase his or her quote: "If a country can spend twelve billion dollars on a war, it can afford a national health care program".

    Bittle and Johnson remind me of esoteric puppets; they have had their 15 minutes in the spotlight. If they are lucky, perhaps someday they'll connect with real intellectuals and understand the real world. They ought to meet Susan Jacoby to start.

    This was not your finest hour...
    Let me tell you why Bittle and Johnson make me both laugh and cry.
    The road to hell is paved with good intentions; No doubt these pleasant smiling people have the best of intentions. They are a likable version of Peterson and Rudman’s Concord Coalition, called “root canal economics” by Mark Thoma of Economist’s View. They regard the federal government's budget deficit as the country's number one problem. B & J didn’t once use the word “entitlements” but they are very worried about Social Security and Medicare.

    Shouldn’t we worry about the government’s long-term plans and obligations? Yes, we should. However, worrying about budget details is crazy when Congress continues to allow massive off budget spending. I’m talking about our insane militarism and the off budget appropriations for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and environs. Now, I can accept and understand the idea of an off budget appropriation in the fall of 2001 right after the 9/11 attacks, but that was many years ago. The fact that Congress continues to allow this supreme folly indicates that budget numbers and budget projections are bogus. The fact that Congress ignores the hundreds of signing statements made by President Bush means that they won’t enforce the rule of law. What about the fact that both Clinton and Obama say that they will use signing statements if elected President? A signing statement is a Presidential veto that cannot be over-ridden by Congress.

    This country cannot survive unless average people are better treated, unless the children of the poor are better educated so that they end up with good jobs in adult life, instead of time in prison. We can’t provide better education and healthcare without more money. That money can only come from cutting military expenditures. Our insane militarism costs more than money. It is killing people in the Middle East, it is creating enemies who will seek revenge against us, it increases Congressional corruption because of the value of defense contracts. If we really believed in this counter-insurgency stuff, like McCain and Petraeus claim to, would we have unsupervised violent men like the Blackwater contractors loose in the Middle East? The fact that they are off budget is a small part of the problem.

    B & J say look at these numbers. I say that the numbers have no meaning, unless and until we follow the rule of law. First, force those in power to follow the rule of law, and then we can discuss how to deal with entitlement problems.


    Jean Johnson quoted Homer Simpson that it takes two to tell a lie, and she and Scott Bittle, with the assistance of Bill Moyers proceeded to illustrate the principle several times. (We often accuse George W. of being drunk: I accuse Bill Moyers here. Maybe he was in the back alley with Robert Bly guzzling some heady wine before he could face these two upperclass cheshire cats.)
    Lie #1- The United States is a wealthy country.
    Rebuttal: Firstly, if we owe over 9 trillion, with a "t", dollars how can you call us wealthy. Secondly, the mass of people are providers of labor and hold few assets. The wealth is held by a tiny oligarchy, their agents and corpporations, the government as steward of resources being held in trust for them until needed (to avoid taxes) and the instruments of debt they hold against the government and the greater mass of people as taxpayers.
    Lie # 2-The organization "Public Agenda" is nonpartisan.
    Rebuttal: While it may be true that this think tank does not advocate for individual polititians, and that it will accept money from both liberal and conservative coffers it is certainly not nonpartisan in the generic sense. It is a mobile bastion (tank) working in advocacy of those who hold American debt and expect taxpayers to pony up: the wealthy class.
    There are other ways of looking at our societal obligations and some are referred to by earlier posts.
    What I mean to say is that the pressure of the book contriversy, and our ability as bloggers to face up to the 9/11 fraud and our undermined environment in the face of armed denial must be tearing Mr. Moyers apart.

    for the most part, this was the most direct remarks inregards to the state of the economy that I've ever seen on T.V.

    Altho the guest failed to touch on other issues that have profound impact on the economic status of our nation.

    problems such as the U.S. prison system, which due to over bearing laws against drugs etc..are stuffed to the brim.

    60 billion a year or more is the estamated annual cost of our prison system.

    2 million americans populate our prisons.

    57% of those 2 million are in prison for non-violent drug charges(i.e. possesion)

    many of those in prison will return some 67.7%

    45% of the american people claim to use a illegal narcotic of some type.

    is this simply a very expensive war agianst the american people that we are willing to fiscally ignore?

    or will we continue to pay for highly expensive adult day cares. Many criminals are "institutionalized" and find that in the "outside" they cannot function, and simply commit crimes agian with the intent of being caught and placed back in the system.

    or is this the conservative idea of socialism? to wage war on nearly half of the population?

    we are also the nation with the largest prison population.

    737 people inprisoned for every 100,000.

    things like this are also devouring our econimic success, yet they go unaddressed and will likely never change.
    that is untill the the system collapses and we have a crisis, as we do with social security.

    remember we have 5% of the worlds population

    and 25% of the incarcerated population fo the world.

    this type of distortion is both criminal and not fiscally sustainable.

    Bill, I have been watching your show for quite a while, but you need to have another go at this piece.

    As many other comments astutely point out, public debt is not inherently a sour concept. The fact that these two guests claim unanimous, bipartisan opposition to growing debt does not make it so. Many respected economists and policy-makers do not view the current debt as a "crisis."

    Robert Reich, Clinton's Secretary of Labor from 92-96, recently blogged that moderate deficit spending will benefit Americans:

    Finally, the next president will need to wean the public off the false notion that fiscal austerity is necessarily good for the economy. There's a crucial difference between public spending that builds the future productivity of the nation's workforce -- spending on education and infrastructure, for example -- and spending that improves today's living standards. Borrowing in order to accomplish the former is wise because it enhances the capacity of the nation to produce goods and services, and thereby shrinks both the deficit and debt as percentages of the total economy. By analogy, while it makes no sense for a family already in debt to borrow more money to finance a cruise, it makes eminent sense for it to borrow more in order to send a child to college.

    This obvious point should be illustrated in the annual budget. Such "investments" should be segregrated from ordinary spending. Annual spending should not exceed annual revenues, but investments should be judged by their potential for growing the overall economy. If the returns to the economy in terms of economic grow are greater than the costs of such borrowing, these public investments are appropriate.

    posted by Robert Reich | 3:02 PM | 41 comments
    Tuesday, February 12, 2008
    Obama vs. McCain, and The Four Stories of American Life

    The following is adapted from a piece I did a couple of years ago for The New Republic. (Thanks to Brad DeLong for reminding me.)

    I

    Since Ronald Reagan, Republicans understood better than Democrats the art of the political narrative. They succeeded in speaking to the basic stories that have defined and animated the United States since its founding, while Democrats have tended to speak in technocratic terms. With Barack Obama, that is changing.

    There are four essential American stories. The first two are about hope; the second two are about fear. Obama has reclaimed the former. His challenge -- especially when McCain is his opponent -- is to figure out how to reclaim the latter.

    1. The Triumphant Individual. This is the familiar tale of the little guy who works hard, takes risks, believes in himself, and eventually gains wealth, fame, and honor. It's the story of the self-made man (or, more recently, woman) who bucks the odds, spurns the naysayers, and shows what can be done with enough gumption and guts. He's instantly recognizable: plainspoken, self-reliant, and uncompromising in his ideals--the underdog who makes it through hard work and faith in himself. Benjamin Franklin's Autobiography is the first in a long line of U.S. self-help manuals about how to make it through self-sacrifice and diligence. The story is epitomized in the life of Abe Lincoln, born in a log cabin, who believed that "the value of life is to improve one's condition." The theme was captured in Horatio Alger's hundred or so novellas, whose heroes all rise promptly and predictably from rags to riches. It's celebrated in the tales of immigrant peddlers who become millionaire tycoons. And it's found in the manifold stories of downtrodden fighters who undertake dangerous quests and find money and glory. Think Rocky Balboa, Norma Rae, and Erin Brockovich. The moral: With enough effort and courage, anyone can make it in the United States.

    2. The Benevolent Community. This is the story of neighbors and friends who roll up their sleeves and pitch in for the common good. Its earliest formulation was John Winthrop's "A Model of Christian Charity," delivered on board a ship in Salem Harbor just before the Puritans landed in 1630--a version of Matthew's Sermon on the Mount, in which the new settlers would be "as a City upon a Hill," "delight in each other," and be "of the same body." Similar communitarian and religious images were found among the abolitionists, suffragettes, and civil rights activists of the 1950s and 1960s. "I have a dream that every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low," said Martin Luther King Jr., extolling the ideal of the national community. The story is captured in the iconic New England town meeting, in frontier settlers erecting one another's barns, in neighbors volunteering as firefighters and librarians, and in small towns sending their high school achievers to college and their boys off to fight foreign wars. It suffuses Norman Rockwell's paintings and Frank Capra's movies. Consider the last scene in It's a Wonderful Life, when George learns he can count on his neighbors' generosity and goodness, just as they had always counted on him.

    3. The Mob at the Gates. In this story, the United States is a beacon light of virtue in a world of darkness, uniquely blessed but continuously endangered by foreign menaces. Hence our endless efforts to contain the barbarism and tyranny beyond our borders. Daniel Boone fought Indians--white America's first evil empire. Davy Crockett battled Mexicans. The story is found in the Whig's anti-English and pro-tariff histories of the United States, in the antiimmigration harangues of the late nineteenth century, and in World War II accounts of Nazi and Japanese barbarism. It animates modern epics about space explorers (often sporting the stars and stripes) battling alien creatures bent on destroying the world. The narrative gave special force to cold war tales during the '50s of an international communist plot to undermine U.S. democracy and subsequently of "evil" empires and axes. The underlying lesson: We must maintain vigilance, lest diabolical forces overwhelm us.

    4. The Rot at the Top. The last story concerns the malevolence of powerful elites. It's a tale of corruption, decadence, and irresponsibility in high places--of conspiracy against the common citizen. It started with King George III, and, to this day, it shapes the way we view government--mostly with distrust. The great bullies of American fiction have often symbolized Rot at the Top: William Faulkner's Flem Snopes, Willie Stark as the Huey Long-like character in All the King's Men, Lionel Barrymore's demonic Mr. Potter in It's a Wonderful Life, and the antagonists that hound the Joad family in The Grapes of Wrath. Suspicions about Rot at the Top have inspired what historian Richard Hofstadter called the paranoid style in U.S. politics--from the pre-Civil War Know-Nothings and Anti-Masonic movements through the Ku Klux Klan and Senator Joseph McCarthy's witch hunts. The myth has also given force to the great populist movements of U.S. history, from Andrew Jackson's attack on the Bank of the United States in the 1830s through William Jennings Bryan's prairie populism of the 1890s.

    Speak to these four stories and you resonate with the tales Americans have been telling each other since our founding--the two hopeful stories rendered more vivid by contrast to the two fearful ones. But the challenge isn't just to find a good speechwriter or a cunning political consultant, or to mine focus groups and polls. Candidates must say what they believe and speak the truth as they see it. (Americans can spot a fake thousands of miles away.)

    These four mental boxes are always going to be filled somehow--if not by Democrats, then by Republicans--because people don't think in terms of isolated policies or issues. If they're to be understandable, policies and issues must fit into larger narratives about where we have been as a nation, what we are up against, and where we could be going. Major shifts in governance--in party alignments and political views--have been precipitated by one party or the other becoming better at telling these four stories.


    II


    In the early decades of the twentieth century, progressives and Democrats filled all four boxes. They accused leaders of big business of being the Rot at the Top. They argued that the large industrial concentrations of the era, the trusts, were stifling the upward mobility of millions of potential Triumphant Individuals and poisoning democracy. During his 1912 campaign, Woodrow Wilson promised to wage "a crusade against powers that have governed us ... that have limited our development, that have determined our lives, that have set us in a straightjacket to do as they please." The struggle to break up the trusts would be nothing less than "a second struggle for emancipation," by a national Benevolent Community intent on restoring freedom and democracy. Wilson's Mob at the Gates, meanwhile, was composed of the large, bellicose states of prewar Europe who posed similar challenges to democratic freedoms. Wilson grimly rallied Americans to "defeat once and for all ... the sinister forces" that rendered peace impossible.

    Theodore Roosevelt, of course, shared Wilson's antipathy toward trusts, but, by the 1920s, Republicans were mostly apologists for big business and Wall Street. That was OK with Americans as long as the economy roared, but it left the Grand Old Party vulnerable in harder times, which soon came. Their approach to foreign policy was mainly to avoid the Mob at the Gates--close the doors to immigrants, erect tariff walls, and isolate the nation. They celebrated the wealth of Triumphant Individuals but didn't champion upward mobility or equal opportunity, and they offered no particular view of the United States as a Benevolent Community. As such, they stayed firmly in the minority most of the first half of the twentieth century.

    Indeed, the Great Depression and World War II presented the United States with palpable illustrations of the Democratic stories. By the 1930s, the Rot at the Top included Wall Street as well as big business. In the 1936 presidential campaign, Franklin D. Roosevelt warned against "economic royalists" who had impressed the whole of society into service. "The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor ... these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship," he warned. What was at stake, he concluded, was nothing less than the "survival of democracy."

    To cope with the Depression, Americans needed a national Benevolent Community. "I see one-third of our nation ill-housed, ill-clad, ill-nourished," FDR told a nation whose citizens clearly understood they were all in this together. He described the purpose of the New Deal as "extending to our national life the old principle of the local community." "We are determined," Roosevelt said, "to make every American citizen the subject of his country's interest and concern." The Social Security Act was not just a social insurance scheme, but the very symbol of national solidarity. Henceforth, all American families would share the risk of becoming unemployed or losing the family's breadwinner or retiring without adequate savings. And then, of course, came Adolf Hitler's war, which cemented this national unity as FDR led the country into battle with the most fearsome Mob at the Gates it had ever encountered, over the objections of Republican isolationists.

    Democrats managed the transition from Depression and world war to postwar prosperity and the cold war with only slight alterations in story line. The Benevolent Community remained at the core of Harry S Truman's Fair Deal, John F. Kennedy's New Frontier, and Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. The upwardly mobile Triumphant Individual depended on federal provisions--the G.I. bill, government-backed mortgages, a guarantee of equal civil rights. Meanwhile, the Democrats continued their assault on the Mob at the Gates, but now the Mob was the dangerous and expansive Soviet Union. Truman stopped the communists in Korea. Kennedy stopped them in Berlin and during the Cuban missile crisis. And he tried to stop them in Vietnam, which he saw as "the finger in the dike" holding back the Soviets. Johnson, of course, tragically tried and failed to erect a dam against the North Vietnamese and their patrons. While Republicans continued to wrestle with the isolationists and nervous Nellies--such as Senator Robert Taft of Ohio--Democrats spoke of paying any price and bearing any burden to protect the United States.

    But, in the '60s, the Rot at the Top gradually dropped out of the Democratic message. Gone were tales of greedy businessmen or unscrupulous financiers. This was partly because the economy had changed profoundly. Postwar prosperity allowed the middle class to explode in size and the gap between rich and poor to shrink. White-collar workers were now abundant, and blue-collar workers got generous wage increases that could be absorbed by the huge postwar market. Rot at the Top rhetoric was also a casualty of the Vietnam War, which spawned an anti-establishment and antiauthoritarian New Left and split Democrats down the middle. For many liberals, the Rot came to be personified by Johnson, his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, and even the federal government itself. (Ironically, Richard Nixon's White House and the Watergate scandal would hurt the Democrats, too, by confirming that the Rot at the Top was to be found in government rather than among business elites.)

    The Vietnam War also undermined Democrats' confidence about the Mob at the Gates. Soviet communism remained dangerous, to be sure, but the McGovern wing of the party had no clear plan of action. Indeed, its approach seemed redolent of the Republican isolationists of the earlier part of the century, who wanted the United States simply to turn its back on the Mob. And, after President Carter and the hostage crisis, even when Democrats did try to tell this story, they seemed uncertain of themselves. In short, Democrats and progressives came off as confused and conflicted about the dangers the United States faced. They stopped talking both about the Rot at the Top and about the Mob at the Gates, and thus ceased giving Americans convincing stories about what the nation was up against.

    Enter Ronald Reagan, master storyteller, who jumped into the conceptual breach that Democrats had left open. For Reagan, the Mob at the Gates was not merely a Soviet Union that needed to be contained, but an Evil Empire that had to be destroyed. The Rot at the Top was big government--Washington insiders and arrogant bureaucrats who stifled Triumphant Individuals--and the Benevolent Community's foundation was not New Deal-style programs but small, traditional neighborhoods in which people voluntarily helped one another, free from government interference. (Social spending could be cut, therefore, without threatening the mythology of benevolence.) The Triumphant Individual, meanwhile, was no longer the little guy in need of a helping hand, but the business entrepreneur who would spawn new companies and industries if unencumbered by government regulations and taxes. Through the alchemy of supply-side ("trickle-down") economics, his self-enriching triumphs would, it was said, help us all. Reagan's overall message was as hopeful and upbeat as FDR's: "America is back and standing tall," Reagan said in 1984. "We've begun to restore the great American values--the dignity of work, the warmth of family, the strength of neighborhood, and the nourishment of human freedom."

    Democrats never regained the capacity to tell their versions of the stories. Even when the implosion of the Soviet Union ended one of the Republicans' most powerful stories and temporarily left the United States without a Mob at the Gates, the stories American politicians told remained Republican stories. The Rot at the Top was still big government. To be sure, Bill Clinton won the presidency in 1992 promising to "fight for the forgotten middle class" against the forces of "greed," but Clinton inherited such a huge budget deficit from George H.W. Bush that he couldn't put up much of a fight. And, after losing his bid for universal health care, Clinton himself announced that the era of big government was over--and he proved it by ending welfare. Clinton's Benevolent Community remained, as it was under his Republican predecessors, a nation of volunteers; Clinton appointed a commission on volunteerism and encouraged the private sector to offer jobs to former welfare recipients. And he urged would-be Triumphant Individuals (who were working harder than ever with no appreciable increase in pay and benefits) to embrace a new covenant of personal "opportunity and responsibility."


    III


    Under George W. Bush, the stories have changed somewhat, but all continue to reflect Republican values, crowding out Democratic interpretations. The September 11 terrorist attacks, of course, powerfully revived the Mob at the Gates tale, and, although Bush never quite connected the dots between global terrorists and his Axis of Evil (including Saddam Hussein), the basic story line he offered was familiar enough to give the Bush presidency a compelling mission. By Bush's second inaugural, that mission had grown even larger--a battle against tyrants and oppressors all over the world, similar to those Wilson had railed against almost 90 years before, and perfectly fitting the mental box Americans have always reserved for the Mob at the Gates.

    Bush's Triumphant Individual, meanwhile, is a property owner who achieves the "dignity and security of economic independence" by getting rich off his assets, as Bush put it in his second inaugural. The "ownership society" is intended, as Bush explained, to make "every citizen an agent of his or her own destiny." In this universe, there is no more need for national benevolence. In fact, Social Security--which had been the very symbol of FDR's Benevolent Community--is to be turned into private accounts that Triumphant Individuals can use to gain personal wealth. In Bush's retelling, the Benevolent Community is found in religious congregations--in "faith-based" organizations that "rally the armies of compassion in our communities to fight a very different war against poverty and hopelessness, a daily battle waged house to house and heart to heart." Not even the Indian Ocean tsunami initially deserved much by way of official government aid. U.S. benevolence found expression instead in the voluntary contributions of corporations and private citizens. "The greatest source of America's generosity is not our government," Bush explained when he appointed his father and Clinton to head a relief commission. "It's the good heart of the American people."

    But it is in the retelling of the story about the Rot at the Top that the younger Bush and his cohorts have departed most from preceding Republican versions. Rather than big government, their Rot is lodged in America's "cultural elites"--depicted as influential liberals in prestigious coastal universities, the upper strata of New York and Hollywood, and the media. This Rot disdains ordinary working Americans, rejects religion and patriotism, celebrates Hollywood's licentiousness, and seeks to impose sexual permissiveness--including abortion and gay marriage--on good, God-fearing Americans.

    A TV advertisement aired in 2003 by a conservative group during the Democratic primary campaign described this new Rot as a "tax-hiking, government-spending, latte-drinking, sushi-eating, Volvo-driving, New York Times-reading, body-piercing, Hollywood-loving, left-wing freak show," and, in the general election campaign, Republicans repeatedly attacked John Kerry as a "Massachusetts liberal" who was part of the "Chardonnay-and-brie set." Bush mocked Kerry for finding a "new nuance" each day on Iraq, drawing out the word "nuance" to emphasize Kerry's French cultural elitism. "In Texas, we don't do nuance," he said, to laughter and applause. House Republican leader Tom DeLay opened his campaign speeches by saying "Good morning, or, as John Kerry would say, 'Bonjour.'"

    What were Democrats to do? All their stories had been replaced. In the 2004 election, Kerry argued forcefully that Bush's Iraq policy would not succeed against terrorism and that Bush's tax cuts for the wealthy should be repealed in order to generate enough revenue for a modest step toward universally affordable health care. But Kerry failed to place these and his other policy prescriptions into the four stories that Americans had always heard and that made sense of the world they knew. As a result, Kerry's policies lacked context and meaning. Where did Kerry want to take the United States? What did he stand for? Absent a clear narrative about the Mob, the Rot, the Benevolent, and the Triumphant, his policies were just ... policies. As such, they were no match for Bush's convictions about what America should do--no match, in other words, for Bush's recasting of the Mob at the Gates as vicious terrorists that had to be killed or would kill us (and against whom, he said, Kerry could not be trusted to use force); of the Triumphant Individual as people free to pursue individual wealth (whom Kerry would smother with taxes); of the Benevolent Community as a collection of religious people with heart (of whom Kerry was contemptuous); and of the Rot at the Top as an arrogant cultural elite (of which Kerry himself was a member).


    IV


    The challenge for Democrats and progressives is not simply to manufacture a new set of stories but to find and tell stories that match their convictions. The stories must also resonate with what Americans sense to be the truth. Democrats might say, for example, that the Mob at the Gates isn't global terrorism and it's not despotic tyrants. Terrorism is a technique, and tyrants exist all over the world (are we going to invade China?). There is a Mob out there, though. They are global gangs of thugs like Al Qaeda--and they are dangerous. They must be met by force. They must also be policed--their movements monitored, their access to dangerous weapons denied, their ranks infiltrated. But the United States can't police them alone. We need a new global alliance against terrorist organizations, led by the United States. (Democrats created nato; maybe now it's time for gato, a Global Anti-Terrorist Organization.) Meanwhile, America's potential Triumphant Individuals depend critically on two things to prosper in the new economy: a good education and good medical care. (This was the subtext of the riveting story Senator Barack Obama told at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.) Almost every American family is struggling to obtain them. Yet, if we join together in a Benevolent Community to provide them to every American citizen, all of us stand to gain. The rising tide of productivity and wealth will lift the nation as a whole.

    In this retelling, the main thing holding us back is the Rot at the Top--concentrated wealth and power to a degree we haven't seen in this nation since the late nineteenth century. Mammoth corporations and hugely rich individuals have abused their power and wealth to corrupt our democracy, take over much of our media, give executives stratospheric pay packages while firing workers, and pad their nests with special tax breaks and corporate welfare. In this, they have been helped by a Republican Congress and White House whose guiding ideology seems less capitalism than cronyism, as shown time and again through legislative sops to the pharmaceutical industry, the credit card companies, and Wall Street. (Indeed, with its mounting ethical troubles, the GOP's congressional leadership is fast becoming another example of Rot at the Top--an example the Democrats could seize on as Gingrich and company did in 1994.) Or, as Al Gore said in 2000, in a remarkably prescient speech, George W. Bush was bankrolled by "a new generation of special interest power brokers who would like nothing better than a pliant president who would bend public policy to suit their purposes and profits." Gore came in for a lot of criticism after his defeat from Democrats who felt uncomfortable with his description of a nation divided between "the people" and "the powerful." But Al Gore was on to something. After all, he got the most votes.

    As the contest unfolds between Obama and McCain, listen carefully for their stories of hope and fear.

    posted by Robert Reich | 9:10 PM | 17 comments
    Monday, February 11, 2008
    The Battle of the Century

    I'm not talking about Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, at least not at the moment. The battle is between Microsoft and Google.

    Microsoft, the desktop-software giant, wants to move into the lucrative online search and advertising business. Google, the goliath of online search and advertising, naturally doesn't want it to. The pawn is the ailing Yahoo! Yahoo has said no to Microsoft's initial $44 billion bid, but it has few alternatives. Microsoft may sweeten the offer somewhat.

    But if you think the final outcome will be decided by the shareholders of Yahoo and Microsoft, you don't know the real power plays, or players.

    You see, Google and Microsoft both maintain armies of lobbyists and lawyers in Washington. Microsoft has had a big Washington presence for twelve years. Google opened its lobbying office two years ago. Both are hiring like mad, and feeding the stars of the Washington legal and lobbying fermament fat retainers. The two firms also have Political Action Committees which, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, have given generously to congressional leaders and members of antitrust committees on both sides of the aisle (as well as to a number of presidential candidates).

    Now, I'm not suggesting outright payoffs, mind you. The money will
    open important doors that the two armies of will enter with their paid experts and their finely-honed arguments and, of course, their implicit promises of future campaign donations. And eventually - after many months or even years, and millions more in payments from Microsoft and Google - one of these armies will win.

    The official question to be debated in Congress and at the antitrust agencies will be whether it's more dangerous for Microsoft to be able to use Yahoo to extend its Windows operating system's market power on to the Internet, or for Google to gain increasing dominance over the Internet unopposed. But the answer will depend on which companies' Washington army is biggest, richest, and cleverest.

    That's how lots of big economic decisions are made these days. Washington is engulfed by corporate lobbyists, lawyers, and campaign money because of just this sort of arm's race among big companies to gain competitive advantage over rivals through favorable laws and rulings.

    Shareholders don't win. The public doesn't win. The only true winners are Washington's lobbyists and lawyers themselves (along with their public-relations staffs and hired-gun experts) -- whose numbers and earnings continue mushroom.

    Here's where we get back to Clinton and Obama. Clinton is taking money from corporate lobbyists; she says there's nothing wrong with that. Obama isn't taking lobbyist money. Both have pledged to loosen the grip of lobbyists over Washington -- as has John McCain. But it won't happen until the corporate arm's race comes to an end.

    How to end it? Let's hope our future president demands it. But one group that should join in the lead are the big institutional investors whose shareholders -- comprising investors in both Microsoft and Google -- would be better off if the race ended. The big institutions should be insisting on mutual de-escalation.

    posted by Robert Reich | 12:00 PM | 6 comments
    Tuesday, February 05, 2008
    The Huge Hole in Unemployment Insurance

    We learned last Friday that payrolls shrunk by 17,000 in January, a job loss not seen since the tail end of the last recession, in 2003. And last week, the number of laid off workers filing applications for unemployment benefits soared by 69,000 to 375,000. It was the most new claims in one week since October, 2005, when Hurricane Katrina and other storms decimated the Gulf Coast.

    Appropriately enough, the Senate is considering whether to lengthen the period of time people can collect unemployment benefits if they still can’t find a job after six months, which is how long unemployment insurance is now available. That’s sensible, but it doesn't fill a huge hole in the unemployment insurance system.

    A new study by the Economic Policy Institute estimates almost 2 million job losers will run out of unemployment benefits this year unless benefits are extended. It’s not unusual to extend benefits during a recession, because recessions often last longer than six months and businesses don’t start hiring again until the economy picks up. And there are few better ways to stimulate the economy. Unemployment benefits put cash directly in the hands of people who need it most, and are most likely to spend it.

    But running out of benefits isn’t the biggest problem facing job losers. It’s not getting benefits to begin with. The troubling fact is most people who lose their jobs simply don’t qualify.

    That’s because the unemployment insurance system was designed more than a half century ago when most people who lost their jobs had been employed full-time for years, and when most households had one wage earner. Even though those realities have changed, the rules haven’t. In most states, you’re eligible for unemployment insurance only if you’ve lost a full-time job that you’ve had for quite a while.

    This leaves out just about everyone who’s lost one or more part-time jobs. And also excludes any full-time worker who had been at the job less than a year before they got canned. It also excludes people who had to leave their job to accompany a working spouse to another city or state. Altogether, the current rules leave out more than half of the American workforce.

    So it’s not enough merely to extend unemployment benefits. If Congress really wants to help the millions of Americans who will lose their jobs in the coming recession, and also stimulate the economy, it should make sure job-losers get benefits in the first place.

    posted by Robert Reich | 11:41 AM | 34 comments
    Monday, February 04, 2008
    Krugman Still Has it Wrong on Obama's and Hillary Clinton's Health Care Plans

    I don't command any space on the New York Times oped page, but for those of you want to know the truth about the health-care plans of Obama and Clinton -- rather than the rather lopsided arguments Paul Krugman keeps making in his column on that page, as he did again today -- please see my blog (below) for January 13, 2008,
    "Democrats Should Stop Squabbling Over Healthcare Mandates."

    posted by Robert Reich | 10:43 AM | 14 comments
    It's Not Just the Business Cycle

    A better stimulus package? More bailouts of Wall Street? Another Fed rate cut? None of these fixes will help much because they do not deal with the underlying problem now facing American consumers, and the underlying anxiety now gripping American voters.

    The problem lies deeper than the current slowdown and transcends the business cycle.

    The fact is, middle-class families have exhausted the coping mechanisms they have used for more than three decades to get by on median wages that are barely higher than they were in 1970, adjusted for inflation. Male wages today are in fact lower than they were then: the income of a young man in his 30s is now 12 per cent below that of a man his age three decades ago. Yet for years now, America’s middle class has lived beyond its pay cheque. Middle-class lifestyles have flourished even though median wages have barely budged. That is now ending. Americans are beginning to feel the consequences.

    The first coping mechanism was moving more women into paid work. The percentage of American working mothers with school-age children has almost doubled since 1970 – from 38 per cent to close to 70 per cent. Some parents are now even doing 24-hour shifts, one on child duty while the other works. These families are known as Dins: double income, no sex.

    But we reached the limit to how many mothers could maintain paying jobs. What to do? We turned to a second coping mechanism. When families could not paddle any harder, they started paddling longer. The typical American now works two weeks more each year than 30 years ago. Compared with any other advanced nation we are veritable workaholics, putting in 350 more hours a year than the average European, more even than the notoriously industrious Japanese.

    But there is also a limit to how long we can work. As the tide of economic necessity continued to rise, we turned to the third coping mechanism. We began to borrow, big time. With housing prices rising briskly through the 1990s and even faster between 2002 and 2006, we turned our homes into piggy banks through home equity loans. Americans got nearly $250bn worth of home equity every quarter in second mortgages and refinancings. That is nearly 10 per cent of disposable income. With credit cards raining down like manna, we bought plasma tele­vision sets, new appliances, vacations.

    With dollars artificially high because foreigners continued to hold them even as the nation sank deeper into debt, we summoned inexpensive goods and services from the rest of the world.

    But this final coping mechanism can no longer keep us going, either. The era of easy money is over. With the bursting of the housing bubble, home equity is drying up. As Moody’s reported recently, defaults on home equity loans have surged to the highest level this decade. Car and credit card debt is next. Personal bankruptcies rose 48 per cent in first half of 2007, probably even more in the second half, which means a wave of defaults on consumer loans. Meanwhile, as foreigners begin shifting out of dollars, we will no longer have access to cheap foreign goods and services.

    In short, the anxiety gripping the middle class -- and their inability to go on buying enough to keep the economy going -- is not simply a product of the current economic slowdown. The underlying problem began around 1970. Any presidential candidate seeking to address it will have to think bigger than bailing out lenders and borrowers, or stimulating the economy with tax cuts and spending increases.

    Most Americans are still not prospering in the high-technology, global economy that emerged three decades ago. Almost all the benefits of economic growth since then have gone to a small number of people at the very top.

    The candidate who acknowledges this and comes up with ways not just to stimulate the economy but also to boost the wages of the bottom two-thirds of Americans –- through, say, a more progressive tax (including a larger Earned-Income Tax Credit), stronger unions and, over the longer term, better schools for children from lower-and moderate-income families and better access to higher education –- will have a good chance of winning over America’s large, and increasingly anxious, voters.

    posted by Robert Reich | 10:35 AM | 38 comments
    Monday, January 28, 2008
    The Real Recession Problem: Consumers Are at the End of Their Ropes

    Perhaps the silliest part of an already silly stimulus bill is a provision giving corporations big tax deductions this year on the costs of new machinery, instead of spreading those deductions over several years, as is normally the case. The idea is to get businesses to invest in more machinery, which will stimulate the economy.

    But accelerated depreciation, as it’s called, doesn’t work. Almost the same tax break was enacted in 2002 and studies show just about no increase in business investment as a result. Why? Because companies won’t invest in more machines when demand is dropping for the stuff the machines make. And right now, demand is dropping for just about everything.

    This tax break exemplifies the illogic of what’s called supply-side economics. If you reduce the cost of investing, so the thinking goes, you’ll get more investment. What’s left out is the demand side of the equation. Without consumers who want to buy a product, there’s no point in making it, regardless of how many tax breaks go into it.

    Which gets us to the real problem. Most consumers are at the end of their ropes and can’t buy more. Real incomes are no higher than they were in 2000, while food and energy and health care costs are all rising faster than inflation. And home values are dropping, which means an end to home equity loans and refinancing.

    Most of what’s being earned in America is going to the richest 5 percent, but the rich devote a smaller percent of their earnings to buying things than the rest of us because, after all, they’re rich -- which means they already have most of what they want. Instead of buying, the rich invest most of their earnings wherever around the world they can get the highest return.

    Add all this together and there’s just not enough consumer demand out there to keep the American economy going. We’re finally reaping the whirlwind of widening inequality and ever more concentrated wealth. Supply-siders who want to cut taxes on corporations and the rich just don’t get it. Neither does most of official Washington.

    posted by Robert Reich | 9:00 PM | 74 comments
    Thursday, January 24, 2008
    Bill Clinton's Old Politics

    I write this more out of sadness than anger. Bill Clinton’s ill-tempered and ill-founded attacks on Barack Obama are doing no credit to the former President, his legacy, or his wife’s campaign. Nor are they helping the Democratic party. While it may be that all is fair in love, war, and politics, it’s not fair – indeed, it’s demeaning – for a former President to say things that are patently untrue (such as Obama’s anti-war position is a “fairy tale”) or to insinuate that Obama is injecting race into the race when the former President is himself doing it. Meanwhile, the attack ads being run in South Carolina by the Clinton camp which quote Obama as saying Republicans had all the ideas under Reagan, is disingenuous. For years, Bill Clinton and many other leading Democrats have made precisely the same point – that starting in the Reagan administration, Republicans put forth a range of new ideas while the Democrats sat on their hands. Many of these ideas were wrong-headed and dangerous, such as supply-side economics. But for too long Democrats failed counter with new ideas of their own; they wrongly assumed that the old Democratic positions and visions would be enough. Clinton’s 1992 campaign – indeed, the entire “New Democratic” message of the 1990s – was premised on the importance of taking back the initiative from the Republicans and offering Americans a new set of ideas and principles. Now, sadly, we’re witnessing a smear campaign against Obama that employs some of the worst aspects of the old politics.

    posted by Robert Reich | 8:07 AM | 317 comments
    -- http://robertreich.blogspot.com/2008/02/david-brooks-is-wrong-america-can.html

    My respect for Moyers contribution to America and the quality of his work, including the Journal, meant that I was profoundly astonshe d by the shallow wrong headedness, and one sidedness of the 'debt' discussion.
    We have known for decades that 'deficit spending' is itself not a problem but a tool. The remarks by Dean Baker below make that point. To them I would add that 'spending' as a concept is the root of hte problem. Government investment which increases productivity and value should not be counted in the same way as transfer payments and other pay outs. IN addition, here are Baker's comments on te program:


    Bill Moyers Goes off the Deep-End on the Deficit, Again

    The budget deficit has been somewhat larger in recent years than it should have been but very few economists see this as a crisis. Over the long-term, the budget is projected to face serious problems but, as the Congressional Budget Office has pointed out, this is primarily due to the projected increase in health care costs.

    Since the government pays for approximately half of national health care costs through Medicare, Medicaid and other public sector programs, if health care costs follow the projected path, then it will lead to major fiscal problems for the federal government. Of course, if health care costs rise as projected, the increase will also have a devastating impact on the private sector. The moral of the story to any serious analyst is that the United States must get its health care costs under control; something that every other wealthy country has managed to do.

    Unfortunately, there is a whole army of deficit fear mongers who have tried to use the projected explosion of health care costs as a pretext for cutting important government programs like Social Security. One of the generals in this army is Peter Peterson, an incredibly rich investment banker who has garnered tens of millions of dollars of tax breaks that allowed him to pay a lower tax rate on his earnings than school teachers and firefighters pay on their earnings. Peterson was most recently in the public eye for lobbying Congress to protect the "fund manager tax subsidy."

    However when he is not lobbying Congress to protect the tax break that has allowed him and other very wealthy people to evade billions of dollars of taxes, Mr. Peterson is lobbying Congress to cut Social Security. He has repeatedly told audiences that "I don't need my Social Security" (after getting hundreds of millions in tax breaks, who would?), which he then uses as a justification for cutting Social Security benefits for tens of millions of workers who have paid for them.

    Mr. Peterson started the Concord Coalition, which has cutting Social Security as a top agenda item. He is also starting a new foundation devoted to this purpose. His track record earned him a solo appearance on Bill Moyers Journal a few years back, in which he got the opportunity to go his tirade against Social Security and other government programs without any correction from experts who understood the issues. Moyers again opened his show tonight to deficit fear mongers, again without any rebuttals from experts with knowledge of the issues.

    Just to note a few of the misleading comments from the piece:

    1) it pointed out that we ran deficits in 31 of the last 35 years and implied that this is a serious problem. In fact, the country can run deficits every single year forever. What matters is the size of the deficits and whether the debt is rising relative to GDP. The U>S. ran deficits in almost every year from 1945 to 1980, yet its ratio of debt to GDP fell from 117.5 percent to 33.5 percent. We could have stayed on this track indefinitely.

    2) The piece made a big point of telling viewers that the debt is now $9 trillion "with a 't'." It is likely that most viewers know how to spell "trillion." This is a silly scare tactic that has no place in a serious discussion. The relevant question is the size of the deficit relative to GDP, which is now almost $15 trillion, also with a "t."

    3) The piece said that if we don't fix our budget situation then the government may not have enough money to pay Social Security benefits. Actually Social Security is supported by a designated tax that is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to keep the program fully funded until 2046 with no changes whatsoever. The idea of not paying Social Security benefits is presumably a favorite of the advocates that Moyers put on his show. They could have said, with at least as much accuracy, that the government would not have the money to repay the bonds held by investors. If the country ever does face a genuine fiscal crisis, this is likely to be at least as popular a fix to its problems. Of course, the wealthy would prefer a default on Social Security to a default on government bonds.

    Presumably Moyers is genuinely confused about the nature and causes of the country's deficit problems, but this is no reason to have such unbalanced shows. If he really believed that Peterson and his fellow deficit fear mongers are right, then they should have the opportunity to prove their case in open debate. After all, this is supposed to be public TV, not the Investment Bankers' Nightly News Hour.

    --Dean Baker

    I was waiting for Moyers to ask why we need to spend a trillion dollars a year (according to Ron Paul) supporting our worldwide military empire. He never did. Odd too that we never hear a word about that from the two remaining Democratic candidates, isn't it?

    Ron Paul has sponsored legislation requiring that excess social security tax receipts be invested in real income producing assets like CDs instead of being "invested" in IOUs we write to ourselves (treasury bonds)as the government has always done. The fund could actually grow, just like the proposed private accounts that the Republicans love so much. Odd that this proposal never made it to the network news. Evidently no one on this show seemed to know about it either.

    Moyers, who are you shilling for? Or do you not know how to ask tough questions?

    The mention of the Bush tax cuts expiring in 2010 in this piece remind me of a thing I heard earlier this week on a Yale Law podcast, about an alternative approach to taxation (though it isn't in the RSS feed, it is in the iTunes subscription http://www.yale.edu/opa/podcast/ ).

    It is all concerning the book: "100 Million Unnecessary Returns: A Simple, Fair, and Competitive Tax Plan for the United States"


    I don't really know if this is "The Answer", but perhaps we have an opportunity to get various ideas on the "discussion floor" in America in the next couple years, and find out what tax systems would serve the US well in the future.

    Bill,

    Is this your view of balanced journalism?

    What's this 'we' crap?

    Why don't your guests talk about taxing The Rich? Buffet got millions in tax CREDITS. Why do your 'helpful' guests always blame The People when it is Corpunism that always has been the problem? Social Security does not need to be 'adjusted' for normal citizens when Billionaires can collect it too (it may be the law but that doesn't preclude it from being stupid) especially when they don't even pay their fair share.

    The government doesn't even fund Social Security - it is a file full of promisory notes.

    I got that from watching NOW with Bill Moyers - ARE YOU EVEN WATCHING YOUR OWN SHOWS? If you were you would be asking tough questions of guests who are nothing but hacks who blame the patient for being sick.

    The true answer came from your other guest that citizens need to hold politicians responsible for the mess they've made. But with the mind numbing chemicals in the water supply that will never happen.

    "Figures never Lie" - but liars sure can figure.

    Stop hosting such insultiing guests.

    Bill,

    Is this your view of balanced journalism?

    What's this 'we' crap?

    Why don't your guests talk about taxing The Rich? Buffet got millions in tax CREDITS. Why do your 'helpful' guests always blame The People when it is Corpunism that always has been the problem? Social Security does not need to be 'adjusted' for normal citizens when Billionaires can collect it too (it may be the law but that doesn't preclude it from being stupid) especially when they don't even pay their fair share.

    The government doesn't even fund Social Security - it is a file full of promisory notes.

    I got that from watching NOW with Bill Moyers - ARE YOU EVEN WATCHING YOUR OWN SHOWS? If you were you would be asking tough questions of guests who are nothing but hacks who blame the patient for being sick.

    The true answer came from your other guest that citizens need to hold politicians responsible for the mess they've made. But with the mind numbing chemicals in the water supply that will never happen.

    "Figures never Lie" - but liars sure can figure.

    Stop hosting such insultiing guests.

    BRAVO Bill Moyers for being possibly the bravest voice in television!

    When it comes to the budget, though, we need to end the war system of dispute settlement. The last number I heard was that the world is spending $1.2 trillion per year on the war system.

    These expenditures are welcomed by the companies receiving them, of course, but they are not PRODUCTIVE. Money spent on bombs literally goes up in smoke.

    The world has become so interconnected that warfare, especially in the nuclear age, has become absurd. But it's still profitable.

    How about having on one of the world federalists who are proposing a world PEACE system?

    If we are going to get serious about protecting the planet from climate change and upheavals from oil and water scarcity, we will have to scrap the war system because we need the money for the people's business.

    Grace said

    "Despite all the explanations, I still don't understand WHY Social Security and Medicare were allowed to get in such dire straits."

    Grace,

    Social Security and Medicare are NOT in dire straits. Moyer's guests were trying to fool you. What they were talking about is "projected debt."

    That means that some time in the future IF people don't pay for Social Security or Medicare, THEN those programs will run into deficit.

    The CURRENT debt is mostly a result of the Reagan tax cuts and the Bush tax cuts. Those Presidents said that tax cuts would produce more revenues. They have not.

    Then they said the tax cuts will lead to economic growth that will pay for the deficits. So far that has not happened. In any case they can't have it both ways: they can't say "deficits don't matter," and then turn around and say "the deficit is going to kill our children and grandchildren."

    Currently Social Security is in SURPLUS. It is lending money TO the government.
    Arguably the current debt is due mostly to the Reagan arms build up and the Bush "war on terror."

    These might or might not be good things to go into debt for. But the "non partisan experts" that Moyers interviews want you to believe that it is Social Security that is causing all the trouble. SOCIAL SECURITY IS CURRENTLY LENDING MONEY TO THE PENTAGON. Moyers guests don't want to have to pay that money back. Moreover if they can fool you into "fixing" Social Security they can get your future Social Security savings and use them to make a profit for themselves while leaving you with the risk of investing in the stock market.

    The real question for the future will be do we want a secure basic retirement. one that guarantees a minimum decent retirement income but allows us to take risks with the rest of our money if we want to. And do we want to have all the medical care that will enable us to have longer healthier lives.

    If we do, we are going to have to pay for it. But it is not going to cost more than we can afford. Social Security will cost people in the future about 2% more than it costs us, but they will be making 50% more than we are, and they will be living longer lives in retirement... that's what the extra tax goes to pay for.

    Medical care could cost a lot more, but again, we will be making a lot more, and the issue will be what would we rather have: a long healthy life, or a shiny new Lexus every five years?

    But, again: Social Security and Medicare are not in bad shape. They are in good shape. And they will stay that way if you don't let the Big Liars fool you into "fixing" them.

    Re: "Where Does the Money Go." After seeing the broadcast, I thought these authors showed their allegiance to the current administration and it is business as usual for the wealthy and not average citizens. It sounded like these authors were pushing the Republican agenda. No one mentioned that the Social Security fund has been siphoned of money over many years to pay other bills and the money was never put back. They failed to mentioned the corrupt Federal Reserve system of printing money with out anything to back it up, that the wealthy tax breaks are a fraud to the average American. Only low-paying service jobs have been created. The outsourcing of our jobs overseas that have also brought down Americans wages and the loss of our Manufacturing base, turning America into a comsuming society. This government always has money for foreign aid and foreigners and not for Americans and our infrastructures. I don't think the true story was reported nor the right questions asked, a disappointing show!

    Great work by many of the previous posters. Mr. Moyers should schedule Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot to explain what's really going on with the budget... Social Security and Medicare. Frankly it's pretty poor journalism--which we've come to expect from most other sources--to let someone get away with saying "by 2040 every dollar... will be taken by Social Security, Medicare, and interest..." without asking why exactly that may be the the case. Note that in 2040, the very youngest of the baby boomers will either be turning 76 or be dead. The older boomers--like me--will more than likely be long gone. So that means the problem is not one of demographics. The numbers are driven by medical/health care inflation. If we don't fix our health care system and its cost continues to grow, we won't be able to afford Medicare because most of us won't be able to afford health care of any kind. If we fix the health system, we go a long way toward fixing the long term budget numbers.

    I was also distressed that the guests did not bring up the military budget until Bill brought it up himself. Then they seem to dismiss it as only a small part of the problem. Of course, that's pure baloney. Besides the direct costs of the wars, the Pentagon budget is now over 1/2 a trillion dollars per year. Other analysts insist that due to military related expenditures in non-Pentagon budgets and the portion of the interest on debt that should be charged to past military spending, that the number is closer to 3/4 of a trillion. Giving money to the Pentagon is like flushing it down a gold plated toilet. They haven't passed an audit in about a decade. And we already spend more on the military than the rest of the world combined. It's about time we have a real debate in this country about the size and scope of our military. I won't be holding my breath.

    I was very interested to hear what your guests last night had to say about the American debt. I was astonished to hear nothing about the debt-based Federal Reserve System as the main culprit of our financial woes, indeed, the financial woes of the world. In the place of the investigative journalism I have come expect from you, Bittle and Johnson offered a naïve, tighten-our-belts, share-the-burden strategy with no insight into the role the central banking system plays in our daily lives and that the system is designed to accomplish precisely what is occurring to common people everywhere. Their information was incomplete at best and fundamentally misleading at worst.

    Dennis Kucinich’s economic advisor, Richard C. Cook, a twenty year veteran of the treasury department and his colleague, Susan Boskey, provide not only a thorough explanation of the system but how to remedy the situation, both personally and nationally. You can learn more about Cook’s upcoming book, We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform,in Boskey’s December newsletter, http://community.icontact.com/p/qualitylifeplan/newsletters/interview807/posts/win-win-economics-december-2007.

    I’m still a tireless fan who thrives on your courage to tell the truth.

    Yours truly,

    Robert Bystrom

    Now that we understands where the money goes, please explain where it comes from! From whom do we borrow these trillions? WHOM do we owe - or perhaps, WHO OWNES US?

    Your Guests are clueless about the dynamics driving the public deficits, (and completely forget the crisis of total public, private and household debt that’s now over 350% of GDP) The deficit has nothing to do with Social security since social security is supported directly by the pay role tax. It is in fact in surplus by 150 billion a year, and does not go into deficit until at lest 2058, not 2017 as to your guest falsely asserts, (this according to even the CBO.) Many estimates put the social security short fall even further out. You should Read Paul Krugman's analysis on social security. It's Krugman's assertion that the crisis of social security is essentially an invented one, driven by dubious numbers by the Bush administration and right wing think tanks like the Heritage foundation and the enterprise institute. What’s worse, the “crisis” of social security has become dogmatic in the media, including apparently Bill Meyers and PBS. It would require an increase in revenue of no more than .6% of GDP to keep social security solvent well into the 22 century. The financial industry could only wishes for such issues"

    There were seven things you forgot to point out on the discussion of the budget deficit. Workers not only have money taken out of their paycheck for federal taxes but there are additional deductions for social security and Medicare. People have paid into these funds over their entire working career. Most people are totally dependent on getting these funds when they retire. They expect to get their funds back with interest.

    This Republican administration has done so many things to create a very large budget deficit in the last seven years. The constant need of the Republican Party to give tax breaks to the wealthy, the very ones that don’t need it. We are spending about 70 billion dollars a year in a war that wasn’t necessary. We now have a rebate plan of about 170 billion dollars that will increase the deficit. We also spend half our yearly budget on the military, yet our soldiers were ill equipped in Iraq. Where is money being spent?

    The core middle class has been losing ground in wages for the last several years. The average wage increase has been about 1.5 percent per year while inflation has been running about 4 – 5 percent per year. If corporate America would pay a decent salary you would not have people leaving off plastic. The current national credit card debt is 880 billion dollars. Almost 70% of the wealth in America is owned by only 20% of Americans. That seems out of balance.

    We have a Federal Reserve that does exactly what Wall Street wants. We would not have the mortgage problem that we currently have if there wasn’t so much greed. Where were the regulators? A financial system without the proper amount of regulation is doomed. This is what happened when Ronald Reagan deregulated the Savings & Loan industry in the 80’s. That bailout cost about 160 billion.

    You also talked about health care. How is it that all the other industrialized nations can provide healthcare but we can’t? Why are we 37th on the list of life expectancy?

    We need to do several things to get back on track. We need to cut military spending by 20%, we need to stay out of wars unless it’s absolutely necessary and we will need to raise taxes, especially on the upper 20%. We need price regulation in the healthcare industry. We can’t keep cost in check if pharmaceutical companies and other providers increase their prices 3 to 4 times the rate the inflation every year. Part of the problem in lower wages is due to the H1B visa and illegal aliens. These items tend to give companies a very cheap labor market. If companies aren’t paying a decent wage it will contribute to many problems throughout society.


    About the Jacoby interview.

    I don’t believe some of the survey statistics that were presented. If she is printing those numbers in books she needs to thoroughly research how the data was collected (review of protocols). There have been instances in the past were the numbers presented were totally wrong.

    Bittle and Johnson didn't measure up to the standard to which we have become accustomed on Bill Moyers' Journal. They sounded cold and detached from the reality of the lives of the "regular" people. All working individuals have contributed to Social Security and Medicare. These two safety nets for the "working" class are not the reason for the financial problems of our country.

    I recently became disenchanted with both "major" political parties. I explored the possibility of becoming a Libertarian, until I discovered they are typically wealthy individuals, whose motto is, "I have a right to accumulate wealth by having you work for me at a minimal wage and you have a right to starve to death." I think Bittle and Johnson may be Libertarians.

    Feb.15 program WAY BELOW your usual standards.Scott Bittle & Jean Johnson came across like over smiling "feelgood" hucksters extolling the current Republican Administration's delusions about Social Security and Medicare?Underfund and destroy the last safety nets available to poor people and a squeezed middle class and the Revolution will begin! Your one timid question about "Iraq war costs" hardly helped. KBR, Halliburton, Private Contractors, CORRUPTION Blackwater,....whoever is building the US Embassy, the entire "GREEN ZONE" needed and duplicative weaponry,missing billions from the DOD, THATS WHERE THE MONEY HAS BEEN SQUANDERED..and the 700plus bases we man around the globe...and payment on the interest we owe China, Japan loans, etc..that's where the money has gone. Anthony Cordesman in a overall very perceptive GREAT DECISIONS article from Foreign Policy Assocation on choices in Iraq frets about the tons and tons of WAR STUFF, etc. that may have to be abandoned if a "Swift Withdrawal is inevitable" Not to worry, ruling class war profiteers will be only too happy to churn out more weaponry, etc. Will anybody ever heed IKE's warning about the Industrial-Military Complex. IT RUNS THE NATION.

    Susan Jacoby makes some of the same points Morris Berman's tome about the terminal crisis of American culture was about. I found her style of exposition irritating, if accurate.
    Iraq: Scars and Exile chillingly hinted at the scope of the human tragedy for which this Administation and the American people are responsible!!! It was the saving grace for a much below par Moyer's Hour!!

    I agree wholeheartedly with coberly.

    If Bill does not get Dean Baker on the show next week then he has done the American people a serious injustice.

    I came to this site completely independently of coberly, but it is heartening to see that another regular reader of Dean Baker's blog was disgusted enough to post his feelings.

    Bill, get the story right. Do what Susan Jacoby would want you to do, and get Dean Baker on your program so he can dissect the misleading statements you were suckered into parroting.

    This shouldn't be happening. I was extremely disappointed in this first interview Bill. You can make amends, please please do.

    BTW: I loved the interview with Susan Jacoby. The bit on "soldiers" vs. "troops" was great.

    Thought provoking and true. But why discussion only of social programs when the biggest "yoke" on this countries shoulders is the defense budget? It is grossly inflated, pro-war, and corporation friendly. Where is the discussion/books on reducing the defense budget? A guest on your show to discuss this issue would be educational.
    Gene Boschee
    Sherwood, Or

    Interesting and important segment, but it is neither necessary to raise taxes nor to cut programs to ensure the solvency of Social Security and Medicare. Not only would their solvency be assured but, combined with existing spending, they could be expanded to provide a single-payer national health care system for all Americans by simply closing two gaping loopholes: the taxable income cap ($97,500 for 2007) and the 100% exemption on 'unearned income' (income from profit, interest, rents, etc.). In fact, the tax rate could be lowered if this were done! A fringe benefit would be to free American companies and local governments from their growing health care burdens! (Further saving could painlessly result from means-testing if desired or necessary.)
    The main federal budget is another matter. In a 1968 LBJ's effort to conceal the cost of the Vietnam War he conflated Social Security and general budget spending - a deceptive practice that continues to this day. If you factor out the independently-funded Social Security and Medicare it becomes obvious that the real problem is the grotesque level of military spending (including interest for past spending, etc.) consumes almost two thirds of the entire main federal budget!
    All problems have solutions worth trying. What is lacking is reasonable and competent leadership.

    Yes, our government spends more than it takes in, but of all the people that you could have chosen to talk about the federal budget and spending, Social Security and Medicare, how did you come up with Bittle and Johnson? There are people in this country who understand these issues and can explain them.. I was very disappointed in the questions asked on this segment of your program, and the answers didn't stand up to what I've read about the issues that were never really addressed on your program. This segment of your program was a big letdown for me from the usual content of your programs.

    I would recommend a couple of books to help the producers of your programs to better understand Social Security. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Michael Hiltzik's book “The Plot Against Social Security: How the Bush Plan is Endangering Our Financial Future', and the book by economists Dean Baker and Mark Weisbrot, “Social Security: The Phony Crisis”. A quick web search would also lead you to organizations working to dispel doomsday myths about SS.

    As for the comments on health care costs I would ask that, as Susan Jacoby suggested, we look at what other countries are doing in health care. All other countries spend much less, in any way you measure it, for health care than we in the US spend while running health care system s whose performance ratings are higher than the US system, and they include all of their people in their health care systems. 50 million US citizens have no health care coverage and another 100 million are under insured. And when you look at the percentage of the population in each of these countries that is over 65 you'll see that their older population percentage is higher than in the US and they still spend less than the US. So, adding more people to the Medicare system doesn't have to break Medicare. Meaningful health care reform could fix our system.. There are many things that can be done to make our health care system more effective and efficient, and bring our health care spending down.. Then there are the health insurance companies who are taking a third of our health care dollars, somewhere around 700 billion dollars a year, and have created the most complex and confusing health care system to administer,and they provide no health care. No other country needs health insurance companies to run their health care systems.

    I hope that you will pursue these isssues in future programs with people who truly understand the issues.

    We were happy that Bill Moyers brought out the contributions of both the current wars and the tax breaks of the rich to the deficit, and don't believe in their minimization by Bittle and Johnson. We think, however, that he missed another couple of points that could have been emphasized. We note that the proportion of the total US tax burden borne by industry and commerce has decreased by about 50% in the last half century. Considering the huge profits made by the oil, arms and insurance industries over that period and beyond, as well as the general economic growth, we believe this would make a great deal of difference if it were turned around in the future. Secondly, we understand that many of these industries, as well as big agriculture, have the benefits of large governmental subsidies whose provenance is an obvious drag on this country's financial stability.

    We were happy that Bill Moyers brought out the contributions of both the current wars and the tax breaks of the rich to the deficit, and don't believe in their minimization by Bittle and Johnson. We think, however, that he missed another couple of points that could have been emphasized. We note that the proportion of the total US tax burden borne by industry and commerce has decreased by about 50% in the last half century. Considering the huge profits made by the oil, arms and insurance industries over that period and beyond, as well as the general economic growth, we believe this would make a great deal of difference if it were turned around in the future. Secondly, we understand that many of these industries, as well as big agriculture, have the benefits of large governmental subsidies whose provenance is an obvious drag on this country's financial stability.

    I keep hearing we must cut social security/medicare benefits to save our economy. What about off-shore corporations again be part of the U.S. scene by paying income tax. How about no more subsidies to oil and corporations. How about cutting NASA spending so we can heal the earth instead of looking for new human footholds on Mars. I believe our excessive military spending is a coverup for funding the admin's corporate buddies who manufacture our war supplies -- what's the admin cut? I hear Our War on Iraq is a coverup in getting an oil agreement signed by the Iraqi's so that our huge oil mongers get 80% of the Iraqi oil profits -- then we'll get out??? We are creating such a travesty!!!

    Bill Moyers may enjoy being made a fool of by the Peter Petersons, but if he were at least an honest fool he would invite someone like Dean Baker to give "equal time" for the proposition that there is NO problem with Social Security.

    To make it short: IF we are going to be living longer, we will need to save more for our retirement. The safest place to save is the Social Security "tax." In order to meet the cost of living longer, that "tax" would need to be raised about one dollar per week each year during the same time the average wage is going up ten dollars per week per year.

    But if you assume the people will not be allowed to save more -- increase their payroll tax -- and project the "deficit" out for 75 years across 200 million people, you can talk about 4.7 Trillion Dollar Unfunded Deficit.

    Then, if no one askes any hard questions, you can do the same thing with Medicare, only there you get to make wild assumptions about increases in cost play any game with the numbers you want -- Moyers won't catch you -- and talk about really scary numbers.

    You can check my numbers... they are in the Trustees Report, but you will need to read carefully to see them.

    I find most of this fear mongering over social programs dragging the country down to be just another chapter of the Right Wing's mantra attacking so-called entitlement programs. This goes along with the Right Wing’s Ownership Society that interprets the Constitution’s grant of inalienable rights as rights only for those that can afford them. My favorite quote is from retired British politician Tony Benn; he is featured in Michael Moore’s movie SICKO. Concerning government sponsored social programs, Mr. Benn said, “You can always find the money to do these things when it is the right thing to do”. Mr. Benn continues, “National healthcare in Brittan was a very controversial program but it was adopted largely because the people of England were not afraid to confront their political leaders”.

    I do agree with one point, politicians from both parties have not been totally honest with American Citizens. Social Security was never meant to be a comprehensive retirement system for American Seniors. It is a support system that supplements private savings and investments made during a senior’s working years. My point about politicians not being totally honest can be verified by the fact that Americans are not saving. However, one can hardly save in today's world as long as the Federal Reserve and the Wall Street crowd have discouraged savings by offering savings interest rates that barely keep up with inflation, while throwing open the doors to the securities market where Wall Street insiders, brokers and investment bankers are often the sole winners. All I can say is, considering the current economic conditions; thank God George Bush was not successful with his program to privatize Social Security.

    IN considering the opinions of jean and scott and then listening to the age of unreason segment, I am drawn to compare our economic situation to other western countries. how insular the thoughts of jean and scott are. as if the united states could never reach out of their current reasoning of priorities to affect a more healthy distribution of capital. it would be acting from more consideration of the generations to come rather than immediate return on investments.
    I think the philosphy of jean and scott keeps us going in a self destructive path of action though at a slower pace than currently. This still leaves our children to deal with the reality that must come from a lifestyle change rather than a re-adjustment of mis-guided and obscene spending over the next 40 years.

    The information presented in this sector was factually inaccurate as concerns Social Security. There are many sites which discuss the economic status of Social Security using real data and projections, so I won't cite figures. Economist Mark Thoma leads discussions on the topic frequently on his blog, for example.

    Consider the misinformation in the light of the question asked on the Susan Jacoby segment as to why people only listen to those who agree with them and you will see one of the reasons.

    Those in the "fact based" community don't need to spend time listening to misinformation.

    Those in the ideologically blind community don't want to have their beliefs challenged by data. This is a psychological thing which has been studied for the past 40+ years by psychologist Robert Altemeyer. He has identified what he calls the "right wing authoritarian" personality type. Someone who combines a need to follow a strong leader with an unwillingness to examine issues critically.

    He has a free, online book which summarizes his findings, it's at theAuthoritarians.com

    He would make a good guest for a future show, by the way. Just ask John Dean for a recommendation, he based his previous book on Altemeyer's work.

    I have not read the book, so my comments are based only on your segment with the authors in which you focused on particular issues like social security, tax cuts and the Iraq/Afghanistan wars.

    The authors state that ending the wars will not make that much difference, but this is only a small part of the much larger problem of the cancer of military spending. Why does the US have to spend more on its military than the entire rest of the world?

    Not only is the total spending out of control, but the Defense Department has repeatedly flunked all measures of its accounting and accountability practices. When you add to that "black" operations budgets, the taxpayers have no way of finding out how much is being given away to war contractors of all sorts.

    The important spending issue is one of priorities. In general, social programs, like Social Security and Medicaid, require long term thinking and planning. It is much easier in the current US political system to gin up fears of survival to justify huge, and now invisible military spending in the short term financed by future generations.

    Real national security is based on the health and education of the population, not jet fighters and computer operated tanks. National security is also based on fiscal and economic responsibility.

    It is wrong to look at cutting social programs without comparing them with the massively wasteful total military budget, not just the spending on current misguided adventures.

    Please believe me when I say that I understand the difficulty of paying for something that costs more than the available funds. For example:

    When the ecomony in Michigan collapsed in the early '80s and I was unable to pay the electric bill, the power company turned it off. When I became unemployed due to injury and fell behind on the mortgage, the bank initiated foreclosure. You get the idea.

    The point is; in every instance that I made a contractual commitment and encountered difficulty, no one, ever, "adjusted" my obligation.

    Likewise, I have a contract with the U.S. government for social security. I've fulfilled my obligation as the government seized part of my income for over 30 years. And now, as a result of the combined failure of the politicians to govern wisely and of the people to vote wisely I'm asked to give what I've never received and allow the government's obligation to me to be "adjusted"?

    Over my dead body!

    Whatever difficulties the politicians and the people endure to meet their commitment to me is the price they pay for the poor decisions they made. Why should it not be so for them as it's been so for me? In fact, anything else simply encourages further poor decisions.

    Let it be a lesson to everyone, including our children.

    Please believe me when I say that I understand the difficulty of paying for something that costs more than the available funds. For example:

    When the ecomony in Michigan collapsed in the early '80s and I was unable to pay the electric bill, the power company turned it off. When I became unemployed due to injury and fell behind on the mortgage, the bank initiated foreclosure. You get the idea.

    The point is; in every instance that I made a contractual commitment and encountered difficulty, no one, ever, "adjusted" my obligation.

    Likewise, I have a contract with the U.S. government for social security. I've fulfilled my obligation as the government seized part of my income for over 30 years. And now, as a result of the combined failure of the politicians to govern wisely and of the people to vote wisely I'm asked to give what I've never received and allow the government's obligation to me to be "adjusted"?

    Over my dead body!

    Whatever difficulties the politicians and the people endure to meet their commitment to me is the price they pay for the poor decisions they made. Why should it not be so for them as it's been so for me? In fact, anything else simply encourages further poor decisions.

    Let it be a lesson to everyone, including our children.

    I just wanted to re-print the comments about this segment posted by economist Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, DC. Baker has a blog on the Prospect magazine web site, called Beat the Press.

    I would suggest perusing the CEPR site and Baker's blog to anyone who would like to gain an understanding of our economy. Baker recognizes that the press does a poor job putting the economic numbers reported in a context that we can understand. It is the goal of Beat the Press to do just that. CEPR talks about many economic issues and recognizes trends such as the housing bubble -- years before it burst.

    I would also ask that Bill Moyers interview Dean Baker or any of the other CEPR economists in order to provide a counter-balance to this Bittle and Johnson interview.

    from the post Bill Moyers Goes off the Deep-End on the Deficit, Again:

    Just to note a few of the misleading comments from the piece:

    1) it pointed out that we ran deficits in 31 of the last 35 years and implied that this is a serious problem. In fact, the country can run deficits every single year forever. What matters is the size of the deficits and whether the debt is rising relative to GDP. The U>S. ran deficits in almost every year from 1945 to 1980, yet its ratio of debt to GDP fell from 117.5 percent to 33.5 percent. We could have stayed on this track indefinitely.

    2) The piece made a big point of telling viewers that the debt is now $9 trillion "with a 't'." It is likely that most viewers know how to spell "trillion." This is a silly scare tactic that has no place in a serious discussion. The relevant question is the size of the deficit relative to GDP, which is now almost $15 trillion, also with a "t."

    3) The piece said that if we don't fix our budget situation then the government may not have enough money to pay Social Security benefits. Actually Social Security is supported by a designated tax that is projected by the Congressional Budget Office to keep the program fully funded until 2046 with no changes whatsoever. The idea of not paying Social Security benefits is presumably a favorite of the advocates that Moyers put on his show. They could have said, with at least as much accuracy, that the government would not have the money to repay the bonds held by investors. If the country ever does face a genuine fiscal crisis, this is likely to be at least as popular a fix to its problems. Of course, the wealthy would prefer a default on Social Security to a default on government bonds.

    Presumably Moyers is genuinely confused about the nature and causes of the country's deficit problems, but this is no reason to have such unbalanced shows. If he really believed that Peterson and his fellow deficit fear mongers are right, then they should have the opportunity to prove their case in open debate. After all, this is supposed to be public TV, not the Investment Bankers' Nightly News Hour.

    I, too, am disappointed in this segment. For Scott to say that he knows how much is being spent on the war is pure arrogance, seeing that no one knows how much is being spent on the war. This attack on Social Security is a trend in economic theory and they are capitalizing on it with a book. And let us remember that economics is not a science but a group of competing theories. Has he calculated the cost of the Blackwater mercs? Has he calculated the corruption? Take a look at PublicIntegrity.org if you want to see the depths of that. Also, the money in this country is moving ever upward, for proof of this, go see the United Nations site and look for the United States as it is rated on the Human Development Index. To point to Social Security as the culprit is absolutely absurd. And the arrogance, again, these two individuals….If you think that an economist can’t be wrong about things, just look at Bernanke. For Bill Moyers to help these two charlatans foist their book on the public is simply wrong. “Let’s cut money from the poor, whose ranks are growing, to balance the budget,” is a pretty sick theory. How about “let’s hold the government accountable for the corruption” or “let’s make the transactions of the departments transparent” or “let’s have a different tax system” or “let’s stop spending gross amounts on an illegal war” as theories? Scott and Jean are only there to sell a book to the “ignorant” American public. Shame on Bill Moyers for helping them.

    I am very disappointed with the discussion of the impact of war spending and tax cuts for the rich on the deficit. The glib assertions made by Scott Bittle and Jean Johnson in the transcript need a solid graphic showing the relative costs of the war, the tax cuts, social security, and Medicare in sensible proportion. I share the view of many commenters that this portion of the show was disappointing. Is there a section of their book where this data is laid out with concrete numbers?

    Bob in HI

    This was a throughly disappointing and one sided interview. Mr. Moyers would have done better interviewing Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute because it would have been more honest.

    Look Social Security is not a budgetary item. Social Security is a trust fund that was put "on budget" by the Johnson Administration in 1969 to conceal war spending. Since Moyers was a member of the Johnson Administration he knows this.

    Also in 1983, in order to replace the tax giveaways to the rich via the 1981 Kemp/Roth tax cut a bipartisan commission headed by Alan Greenspan shifted tax burdens onto the Social Security payroll tax.

    The major component of the debt are tax cuts for the rich and spending on the military including the War in Iraq. About 80% of the debt can be attributed to military spending and that is what needs to be cut not social spending as being advocated by the guest.

    That segment was an utter disgrace and a disservice to the American people.

    What if the legislative and executive branches of government were held personally and financially responsible for any money spend beyond our means.

    That would sure nip their overspending in the bud, wouldn't it?
    Make them pay!

    =
    MJA

    The numbers I will be using, I obtained from the U.S. Treasury web site(www.treas.gov). Presently, the Bush administration has available debt balances only back to 1998. On 9/22/2004, I was able to view end of fiscal year debt balances back to 01/01/1791. I did an analysis using FIFO(first in first out) to determine the repayment schedule of the federal gov't. I found that the federal gov't retired its debt usually within 40 years except for the Civil War debt, which took 60 years to retire. Our national debt on 12/31/1980 was 930.21 billion. Our national debt on 2/14/2008 was 9.29 trillion, a nearly 10-fold increase in 28.5 years. When I took a fiscal year-end debt balance and subtracted the preceding year-end debt balance to arrive at either a negative number(surplus) or a positive number(deficit), starting at the present and working back to my first negative number, I was shocked to discover that it was not till 1960 that I had a surplus. The surplus of 230 billion in 2000 was actually an increase to our national debt of 17.9 billion. The debt held by the public did decrease by 230.8 billion, but the intragovernmental holdings portion of the national debt increased 248.7 billion. I believe the intragovernmental holdings portion of the national debt is the key indicator for the financial health to the entitlement accounts(social security). The intragovernmental holdings portion of the national debt has to come from federal agencies that have cash reserves. With the intragovernmental holdings amount at 4.095955 trillion on 2/14/08, I believe that is primarily from the social security cash reserves. Finally, the federal gov't national debt on 1/31/2001 was $5,716,070,587,057.36. The federal gov't national debt on 2/14/2008 was $9,291,899,089,252.55. The average annual increase to the federal gov't national debt during the seven years of the Bush administration is $510,832,643,170.74.

    The government responsibility should be in the hands of the people to express
    their “ WILL on ALL ISSUES”!
    The truth is the "Government is dysfunctional! There is no accountability today...”!
    "Specific economic stimulus package - plan" are based on a printing press economy!
    $150 billion dollars is not free! It only increases the national debt!
    We were told that “$150 billions dollars is 1% of the GNP”!
    $1 trillion dollars is 10% of the GNP! $10 trillion dollars DEBT is 100% of the GNP!
    Simply, the country is BANKRUPT!
    The Country is in “CRISES”: WAR, DEBT, ECONOMY, HEALTH CARE,
    RAMPANT CORRUPTION, ELECTIONS, UNEMPLOYMENT, DEPRESSION
    INFLATION, LAWS, SOCIAL SECURITIES, 360,000 veterans HOMELESS,
    EMIGRATION, EARMARKS etc.!
    “TO BEGIN THE WORLD OVER AGAIN “ is to CHANGE, “AMEND THE
    CONSTITUTION"! The solution to the problems should be to:

    AMMEND THE CONSTITUTION for the people to express their

    WILL on ALL MAJOR ISSUES;

    REPEAL LOCAL, STATE and FEDERAL GOVERNMENT UNIT DEBT ACT;

    Amend “the duties and responsibilities of the Congress, Senate” and all other

    elected official from LIBERARLY construed to “STRICTLY construed”;

    Specifically stating their duties and responsibilities by “SHALL... and/or MUST...”;

    Repeal “the immunity statutes” for all elected official!

    All “LAWS and regulation” MUST be placed on a referendum for the people

    to “EXPRESS THEIR WILL”! As long as we have government of one party

    “a Party of money”, it will never change, unless ALL the issues are placed on

    a referendum for the people to “Express their WILL”!

    Although it is certainly a politically naive approach to helping solve your intractable financial situation, I feel compelled, as an interested Canadian observer of the American political stage, to point out that the rest of the developed world remains incredulous as you continue to insist on keeping taxes unrealistically low. America pays the lowest fuel prices and income taxes in the developed world and you still think you're overtaxed! Reasonable taxation - which, incidentally, all developed countries use to help pay for universal health care for their citizens through either a mixed public/private system found throughout Europe or a single-payer system as we have in Canada - will not get your fiscal house in order but it will go a long way to curtailing uncontrolled consumption. The drug of choice, to quote a friend, has become mass consumerism. So take that $600 tax rebate - borrowed from the Chinese, of course - and make sure you go out and buy the latest $1000 toy from Wal-Mart - made in China, no doubt - and ask yourself, as you condemn future generations to perpetual debt, who exactly is benefiting from such a misguided economic policy. If only you didn't take the rest of us down with you. Then again, China/India Inc. might just be kind enough to bail you out....

    Since our benighted PBS afilliate does not carry the Journal until 11:00 PM est, I at least get a good idea of the response to the Bittle & Johnson interview. While I support the necessity for the free expression of even such half-baked thinking as this, where were you Bill with the usual incisive questions we have come to expect?

    Regarding Mr. Bernie Zelazny's valuable
    details re the cost of the Iraq war, I wonder if he or someone could factor
    in the cost of maintaining our military had we not gone to war at all. There would be costs of replacement of at least some equipment, cost of the training of our active duty units, cost associated with rising fuel prices, no matter whether the fuel is burned here or in Iraq. I have continually seen this
    set of expenses left out of the picture.
    What would be the actual cost of the war if the cost of keeping a strong military force were subtracted? Still far too much, but likely not a trillion dollars to date.

    From Virginia Morris at 11:43pm - " Those who own this nation, the five percent with half the nation's assets, are not interested in change. They have what they want already. Those who own the nation run the nation's affairs. Until that changes, it is all blather."

    Right on!

    My research since the close of your program tonight indicates the current cost of the Global war on Terror (GWOT) far exceeds the $500 billion amount you stated.


    In the article "Rising price of the war on terror" in the November 21, 2006 edition of the CS Monitor it states the war in Iraq had surpassed $300 billion and the combined cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan then totaled $500 billion. If you visit The Cost of War thier running total will soon reach $500 billion for the cost of the Iraq war alone. Based on that figure and the added cost of the war in Afghanistan it seems to me that the "published" cost of the War on Terror is fast approaching $900 billion. Of course these figures probably do not included hidden costs such as the CIA and other related activities such as the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, etc. It seems safe to estimate more than $1 trillion has been spent on the GWOT to date.

    As further proof of the yet to be determined total cost of the GWOT check out the July 18, 2006 GAO report which states, "DOD's reported GWOT costs and appropriated amounts differ generally because DOD's cost reporting does not capture some items such as intelligence and Army modular force transformation. Also, DOD has not yet used funding made available for multiple years, such as procurement and military construction. GAO's prior work found numerous problems with DOD's processes for recording and reporting GWOT costs, including long-standing deficiencies in DOD's financial management systems and business processes, the use of estimates instead of actual cost data, and the lack of adequate supporting documentation."

    My research since the close of your program tonight indicates the current cost of the Global war on Terror (GWOT) far exceeds the $500 billion amount you stated.


    In the article "Rising price of the war on terror" in the November 21, 2006 edition of the CS Monitor it states the war in Iraq had surpassed $300 billion and the combined cost of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan then totaled $500 billion. If you visit The Cost of War thier running total will soon reach $500 billion for the cost of the Iraq war alone. Based on that figure and the added cost of the war in Afghanistan it seems to me that the "published" cost of the War on Terror is fast approaching $900 billion. Of course these figures probably do not included hidden costs such as the CIA and other related activities such as the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, etc. It seems safe to estimate more than $1 trillion has been spent on the GWOT to date.

    As further proof of the yet to be determined total cost of the GWOT check out the July 18, 2006 GAO report which states, "DOD's reported GWOT costs and appropriated amounts differ generally because DOD's cost reporting does not capture some items such as intelligence and Army modular force transformation. Also, DOD has not yet used funding made available for multiple years, such as procurement and military construction. GAO's prior work found numerous problems with DOD's processes for recording and reporting GWOT costs, including long-standing deficiencies in DOD's financial management systems and business processes, the use of estimates instead of actual cost data, and the lack of adequate supporting documentation."

    I found the interview with about the budget disappointing. For starters, the escalation in costs of Medicare and Medicaid results from the government paying for a profit-driven health care system. We in America have been really bamboozled in believing health care is a commodity best delivered by profit-driven corporations. Secondly, one of the authors of the book said that this year the Iraq war would cost $600 billion. Does he not know that a sizable portion of the defense budget is classified, that is, the spook contracts? Since they are classified so no one knows these contracts for people, supplies and services even exist, and the government can deny their existence, their cost is unknown. The Iraq war is costing $18 million an hour, and the next defense budget (unclassified portion) is $515 billion. For what? After World War II, it was quite clear to the federal government and to corporations that permanent war fueled the economy and generated prosperity. Then, the military-industrial complex was quite egalitarian, insofar as thousands of small and medium-sized businesses subcontracted with the Lockheeds and General Dynamics bohemoths. The industry has contracted severely, so the prosperity has disappeared, except for the shareholders of the nine remaining defense companies. Blaming Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is the cheap and easy way to avoid the hard truth: the American economy is now one based on consumption, not production and export. I found the authors' rather naive and comfortably secure in their privileged ignorance.

    America's greatest deficit is one of rational thought. The most significant problem with our failing economy is Medicare, so we're asking the question: Do we increase taxes or cut benefits? Are we so braindead that we can't even consider fixing healthcare as a solution?

    We pay doctors to treat us but not to cure us or prevent disease. Isn't it obvious where this will inevitably lead?

    We pay healthcare managers and investors to not treat patients. Can't we see this is a bottomless pit?

    Consider the example of Crohn's Disease. There's overwhelming evidence that infection by paratuberculosis bacteria is behind the spread of Crohn's Disease, but we ignore the most obvious possible cause then treat the infection by suppressing the immune system and surgically removing the intestines one section at a time as the infection progresses. In a country that doesn't believe in evolution, we're dealing with this infectious disease by letting it kill off those who are genetically susceptible, eugenics?

    The answers aren't that far out there. Think, people!

    I hate to sound like sour grapes, but I my husband and I are reaching retirement age. In our lifetimes, the republicans screwed the budget under Reagan and we were forced to pay for it in the form of double social security taxes.. and more income taxes... when Bush One ruined the economy, there was the RTC and more taxes... when Bill Clinton came to the rescue, it was double the taxes. Every time the government wants to balance the books after they loot the treasury and hand it over to corporations, they dig at the pockets of the workers.

    Well this time we don't want to play. We want our social security and our medicare that we paid double the price for. We want out of the sucker game and we don't want to pay again. Let the younger people pay for it because they are the ones with the high paying jobs and all the discretionary income we never dreamed of having.

    We quit. We are simply tapped. Most of the boomers got laid off when they turned 55 as part of the Bush program for lowering social security payments to our generation so we are already screwed. There are millions of boomers working in stores around the country because their college diplomas are no good anymore. It's age discrimination all over America. We will emigrate if you go after us again. It's already happening: our generation is throwing in the towel on our nation and emigrating in growing numbers.

    We would rather go through another Depression and let the world economy reset completely. Maybe we could do away with the world bank and the fed altogether.

    Why is there no mention and discussion of the Greenspan motivated social security increases in 1983? The guests and Bill sagely discuss what should be done but nothing about the basic problem..there is nothing to prevent Congress from continuing to spent money taken from us for these programs. Anybody..Google "Greenspan social security tax increase". You won't hear about it otherwise.

    Despite all the explanations, I still don't understand WHY Social Security and Medicare were allowed to get in such dire straits. It seems to me that if I, and all the other people my age, have been paying into these programs since 1963 and if the federal government has been doing its job of being good stewards or brokers or whatever they like to call themselves, we even have a crisis. When I think about all the reports about companies who have been prosecuted over the years for mismanagement of retirement funds, I have to wonder where the Federal Government gets off telling us there just isn't enough money any more in the funds they have been managing.

    Please multiply old dollar values by the inflation factor, close to 30 now.

    Military spending circulates in our economy. If you cut it, a different group becomes unemployed. Maybe these aren't the sort you want to be footloose and desperate.

    It would take a Constitutional ammendment to eliminate the influence of the states that don't pull their weight, but they still have the power to stop anything from happening because of the supermajority needed.

    Our ability to pay off debt depends on our standard of living, which is strained by too little energy and too many people.

    Money is Debt.
    Debt is only real thing about modern economics system.

    I would recommend the Producers of Bill Moyers Journal to watch this video.
    and may be write an executive summary for Bill. So half the bogus stuff talked about in the interview would debunked.
    http://zaphodforpresident.com/2007/04/11/money-as-debt

    Just one small comment on this part of your program: when we first moved to Illinois, we were in Henry Hyde's congressional district. At the time, he periodically sent out letters to his constituents. Many of them included a page of "check the programs for which you believe that federal spending should be increased." The other side of that page was headed "check the programs for which you believe federal spending should be cut in order to provide the increased funding that you suggested." I had never before known - nor have I known since - of a politician who was so completely in touch with reality. I do not know the extent to which Mr. Hyde's actions matched his words; but I believe that his example should be emulated by every Congressman and Representative.

    In my eighth decade, I have heard the same complaints about fiscal irresponsibility over and again. We hear lots of noise from the peanut gallery. What I have noticed is that few politicians talk about it.

    Bittle and Johnson's remarks that the financial problem is obvious mimics those trying to alert us to the destruction of our planet. Seeing the problem has no necessary connection to solving it.

    Those who own this nation, the five percent with half the nation's assets, are not interested in change. They have what they want already. Those who own the nation run the nation's affairs. Until that changes, it is all blather.

    Before I make any suggestions, I want to reiterate most of the above,
    There is NOT a crisis in Social Security! The Federal Government has to make good on the Treasury Notes, there in! Social Security was never designed to have a surplus. This occured in the 80's for the specific purpose of covering the baby boom! In other words, we paid for the generation before us, and ourselves!
    Simple fix, remove the cap, and or make a donate hole from 100k to 200k! Why should the poor/middle-class pay on ALL their income and the wealthy stop after the first 90k?
    As stated above, Medicares minor problems, someof which are directly related to the heavy subsides paid to HMO/Insurance Co. for the Advantage Programs! Another program your average poor Social Security recipient, can't even afford! We pay twice as much per person for healthcare, as the next cloes industrialized nation, all of whom cover all their citizens!

    To Cut Spending:

    1 No foreign aid to countries that have a higher, better standard of living then us! (like Isreal, and others)They get healthcare!
    2. We pay more for the Military/Pentagon ect. then all other nations in the world put together! We don't need bases in Japan, Italy, England, Germany, ect. Cut stateside military spending by another 20% with an additional 10% being transfered to the Nat'l Guard, which is for defending this Country only!
    3. No state can receive anymore then 70% of the total amount of monies paid into the Federal government back out!
    4. Any hospital, or healthcare facility that takes Federal money in any form, has to be run on a Not-for-Profit Basis!
    5. Make the Federal tax code extremely simple, yet VERY Progressive. ALL income is treated equal, personal or corporate! There are no deductions, or long forms, or loop holes. Income is income is income!First 20k, no tax. Next bracket, 20 to 40 pay 10%, 40 to 60, pay 15%, 60to 80 pay 20%, 80 to 100 pay 25%, ect. all the way up! How you choose to spend your money is your business!
    5. To receive Federal Education dollars, every student has to pass a minimum standard test, to go to the next grade! A Third grader in Alabama, should be able to transfer to the best California school system, and be able to work a grade level!

    6. No State, County, or Federal employee should be paid more then the median income for the area they serve in! Nor better pensions, or benifits then at least 60% of the population they serve receive! They should have to live like the rest of us!
    7. No government contracts to, or products bought, that are provided by companies that don't pay United States Income tax, and use American workers!

    That should solve the problem!!!

    I was disappointed in this show because there was no point to it. Privatization of Social Security? Debt? What?

    Think about this: In 1950 the national debt was $257 billion. Today the national debt is about $8.7 trillion. It seems as if the numbers jugglers and bean counters have their knickers all twisted because they have projected to balance the national books the current national debt will need a 4-fold increase over the next 68-years.

    Over the last 57-years America survived a 34-fold increase in federal debt. But we can’t survive a 4-fold increase over the next 68-years?

    When it comes to projections, I can’t help but recall Mark Twain, when made this observation: “The Army Corps of Engineers said that due to low snow fall last winter, the Mississippi River is 250 miles shorter between St. Paul and New Orleans. At that rate in five years the distance between St. Paul and New Orleans will only be 20-miles.”

    The answer is the money should come from our federal government. The U.S. Constitution, delegates the right to Congress in Section 8. Para. 5. "To coin money (and) regulate the value thereof...". Of course the dormant clause is that no one else has this right. But, oops, Congress has abrogated its authority to create money and gave it to the Federal Reserve System and it’s central banks almost 100-years ago…it was a political decision..

    The Fed is a quasi-private entity that loans money into circulation for interest. It’s the accumulating interest on debt that is devastating our economy and way of life. Add the governmental expenditures for war to the losses in tax revenue through subsidies to corporate America and the solution comes into focus.

    The issue of monetization policy is a yet another public issue that should be handled by Congress.

    We need to keep our future public policy away from the bean counters.

    Actually, I don’t know which is scarier, congress or the bean counters.

    Your guests make a good point, but all they talked about were the social security and medical issues. They never mentioned the biggest gorilla in the room: the money spent on defense. The US government spends about 40% to 50% of our budget on various defense programs. We spend more on the military than all of the rest of the world's governments combined. Sure, some wise planning and some modifications of social security would help. But it is madness not to mention the huge amounts of money spent on a military we don't need, or shouldn't need.

    The public debt is large, but this is actually a very small way to think about it; what you'd expect of accountants more than economists. In actual fact it is so large, largely because of inflation, but it is expected to never be paid, and merely to contribute to the depreciation of our money until the entire economy collapses and our nation bankrupted. Before the growth of mfrg we had little money of our own and we began by writing instruments of credit to ourselves to use as money. But we seem to have continued to be stimulated to any sort of work by credit, and it is likely that all economic activity would stop if we were forced to save first, because to operate entirely on savings would require a different more self-reliant and self-motivating personality. In the 19th c the tariff and consequent growth of mfrg increased productivity and savings and our stockpile of gold, but as productivity has declined the US has moved backwards to a commodity-based economy in debt to overseas mfrs, with an aristocracy, servants or slaves like the antebellum South. As mfrg has declined so have savings and the middle-class. The sale of commodities for gold has always been the hallmark of the free-trade position, and the use of credit for economic development of the mercantilist position, but we have been unable to control our use of debt, which is now far, far larger than just the debt of the Federal govt, and even the free-traders are now Keynesians. In this connection it might be interesting to mention that the fundamentalist historian Francis Schaeffer, whose book was cited as an influence by Mike Huckabee, singled out the continual creation of credit (what Bernanke this week called the insurance function of the Fed) as the leading problem facing Americans in the mid-70s.

    Very disappointing discussion on debt. Your two guest are playing games with numbers. Bill we deserve better. They tie social security, which is basically sound, and paid for well past the 2040 time horizon they discuss, together with Medicare and Medicaid, both of which are in a funding crisis. The real crisis of both (ask a competent economist, like Paul Krugman for example) is due to the overall rising cost of healthcare. Conflating Social Security and Medicaid is dishonest and disingenous. These two writers do have an agenda, and it's not very hidden...

    Bill you let us down big time with these guests. You are one of the main voices of sanity on so much. Please find some honest voices on spending (not Peter Peterson) and revisit this.

    "Lawrence Green' hit the nail on its head.

    America monetizes its wealth and, more importantly, it monetizes the industry (work) of our citizens by issuing debt bearing instruments through the Federal Reserve. A Federal Reserve Note is not a device of wealth, it is what it states it is, a "note". Every Federal Reserve Note is a debt upon which interest must be paid. It's a "bank note" owed to a bank with interest added.

    People can't understand this simple point...yet. So to say much more is futile. The public isn't going to get the picture until we realize we are sharecroppers and bankrupt (no net worth).

    My prediction is it will be at least another 5-years before the public will fathom the full breadth and depth of the corruption and failings of the US government and the Federal Reserve and their manipulation of our system of currency.

    I generally enjoy Mr. Moyers Show, however those two "Repug Like " yapping about Social Security and Medicare every other sentence was absolutely rediculous !Considering I am no Liberal nor Conservative I can just picture how the 40% of those watching felt.
    "60% of the US Voters are now Independant and most of us are going to the Green Party. Have any doubts as to why?

    There is one simple fix that will by itself put a good amount of money into the SS system. That is to totally remove the cap on income, which for 2007 is $94,200. This is the most highly regressive tax we have. Let each income level pay at the same percentage. Congress needs to show courage to get this done. Make sure they do.

    When you make an error here you have to rewrite everything. Can't this be retained?

    It is absolutely uncnscionable for the U.S. Government to disregard these valiant Iraqis who worked for the U.S. Government. They should be given the utmost attention to reach the U.S. and also receive medical attention from the U.S. military in Iraq, if necessary.

    Also, Bill said something to the effect that, "It is hard to understand that these people have become turnovers of history.." something to that effect. That is hardly germane to humanitarian concerns. We must move from passivity to action and DO something to help these abandoned Iraqis who threw their lot in with the U.S. How about Semper Honor?

    As timely and pertinent their book is, Mr. Bittle and Ms. Johnson still don't get the ultimate reason why we are in the mess we're in.

    The United States has been in bankruptcy and continued bankruptcy reorganization since 1933. Every time the congress raises the debt ceiling, it constitutes another reorganization.

    The true problem is the continued existence of the Federal Reserve Bank - neither federal nor reserve. The interest that is continued from generation to generation can never be repaid.

    The only true course of action is to restore the republic's responsibility of issuing the nation's currency, based on the real value of the nation, its output, and its resources.

    To continue to discuss income taxes - that pay for nothing except the interest on the national debt - is but a red herring. We didn't have an income tax until the Federal Reserve came into existence.

    No Federal Reserve, no income taxes. A value based, constituional currency backed by the value of the united States of America is the only way to save ourselves from eternal servitude by the bankers.

    I second Charles Rusnak's comment above. Bittle and Johnson in their interview used the vocabulary and half-truths of Republican party "talking points". Social Security is not and will not be in crisis. America's health care/insurance, but not Medicare alone, is already in an unsustainable state. Linking the two issues in one sentence is dishonest.

    The government needs to take some of that money and create good jobs with benefits for people in their senior baby boomer earning years. Many of us don't own a house, don't have a retirement fund, and can no longer get waitressing jobs. We are not likely to die soon, and hey, how about a job? stop marketing credit cards to college students who dont' have jobs. stop outsourcing the middle class jobs to other countries, no wonder the tax revenues are down. Get ahold of those hedge fund termites who infest the stock market and tax them. and put the money back into getting people back to work.

    I am disappointed that Mr Moyer allowed himself to be spun.
    Social Security can by made solvent by relatively minor adjustments.

    Medicare's problems are those of the healthcare and health delivery system in general. The rising costs of health insurance and medical care need to be addressed apart from the Federal budget.

    And Mr Moyer posed a good question about military spending and the costs of our current wars. But his guests answered by saying the costs of the wars are part of the budget crisis, but not all of it. Notice how they completely ignored the part of Mr Moyer's question concerning overall military spending. Our bases around the world, our non-working "star-wars" initiatives, our spending on duplicate and redundant weapons systems - how much do these add to our budget crises?

    I hope Mr Moyer will address these budget costs in a future show.

    I can't believe it. My wife and I are 55 years old and both of us have lost our jobs. Millions are losing their houses and cars and these guys say that we have to sacrifice! The middle class has sacrificed like no other group in this country. Make the elite pay there fair share like this progressive tax system is suppose to work. Reign in the military industrial complex and send the illegals home.

    I was shocked to hear Mr. Moyers make a flippant comment, comparing excessive government spending to repeatedly getting drunk, "Does being drunk get normal?" As someone who has lost friends to a drunk driver, I won't soon forget that Mr. Moyers himself was arrested for drunk driving not long ago. That he still considers it a joke is staggering.

    I think we can afford to jettison a lot of pork and subsidies; change them into temporary transition assistance to help subsidy addicts find new, profitable forms of work. Of course, we might have to rearrange our system of presidential primaries if we ever want to cut the corn subsidy...

    We spend more on defense than the rest of the planet put together. I think we can afford to concentrate on the forces that will solve 21st century conflicts rather than being prepared to fight two major simultaneous land wars.

    We should also increase government transparency and accountability, so it's easy to tell who ordered spending on what. The government works for the people, and as the bosses, we should have the right to audit the books.

    Post a comment

    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