Transcript - June 21, 2002
ANNOUNCER: You're watching NOW with Bill Moyers. With contributions from NPR news. This week on NOW...MOYERS: Investors beware: Wall Street firms are pressing Congress for protection from this man.
NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL ELLIOT SPTIZER: We have gotten bad people out of the marketplace, and they don't want us to do that.
MOYERS: New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and his efforts to clean up the securities industry. And it seemed a picture-perfect community. For decades its residents did not know the truth: a toxic time bomb buried in their midst. Anniston has the highest levels of P.C.B. exposure of any town in America.
MOYERS: A report from Anniston, Alabama, where the community is paying the price for government and corporate secrecy. And Democrats and Republicans are offering plans for prescription drugs. We take a look at the fine print on those drug ads.
KATHLEEN HALL JAMIESON: There is nothing in the law that requires that it tell us that it's the pharmaceutical industry.
MOYERS: Kathleen Hall Jamieson on the real message behind issue ads.
ANNOUNCER: From our studios in New York, Bill Moyers.
MOYERS: Welcome to "NOW."
There's a movement afoot this week to make Wall Street safe for predators. So help me its true. I'm not making this up. Despite all the evidence that small investors have been the victims of a con game, some of the big Wall Street firms are lobbying Congress to prevent states from prosecuting them if they violate security laws.
The Wall Street mafia, in other words, wants Congress to give them immunity if the cops catch them dumping the body into the river. It's an outrage, but it doesn't surprise the man who blew the whistle on Wall Street in the first place. Three weeks ago on this program, you heard the Attorney General of New York, Eliot Spitzer, tell us about his investigation into how some brokerage firms were deceiving investors. As a result of the investigation one firm, Merrill Lynch, agreed to pay a $100 million penalty and clean up its act. The Attorney General said that was just the beginning: and is it your opinion that this is wider than just Merrill?
MOYERS: That the industry is involved.
SPITZER: Yes, the problem goes beyond Merrill. Whether we can solve it.
MOYERS: What do you mean, whether we can solve it. What are the obstacles to solving it?
SPITZER: Well, we need the other companies to step up to the standard that Merrill Lynch has adopted today. We need the other regulators, the S.E.C., the N.A.S.D., to adopt more rigorous standards of conduct, hopefully that will happen.
MOYERS: I then asked the Attorney General of New York if he didn't think reform would also be difficult because Wall Street has bought the Congress it wants.
Here's his answer:
SPITZER: That is a real problem, and when you look at the Congressional reaction to this ethical dilemma that Wall Street is facing, I think you can see a hesitancy to act. You see the relevant committees showing a certain timorousness. And it is because over the years their ties to Wall Street have simply become too ingrained, and you don't have the distance, you don't have the willingness to take on these very substantial entities that perhaps the Washington leadership needs if we're going to get real reform.
MOYERS: New York's chief prosecutor turns out also to be a prophet. Congress is indeed trying to tie his hands, and the hands of the attorneys general in all the other 49 states. The man Wall Street is most afraid of right now is here to talk about this. Thank you.
SPITZER: Thank you.
MOYERS: Did you even imagine they'd go this far?
SPITZER: No, this astonished me. And it disappointed me. I was also angry of course, because I thought we had done something useful for investors, important for the marketplace. I think some business leaders got it, but those who would try to tie our hands, as you said, simply don't understand the magnitude of the problem.
MOYERS: The "New York Times" Said this week that the fellow trying to stir up Congress the most is Phillip Purcell, the chairman of Morgan Stanley. Is Morgan Stanley one of the firms you've been investigating?
SPITZER: Yes. And they have acknowledged that publicly, and I don't think it speaks well for them that their reaction has been to run to Congress to get us off the beat, as you said. It does not reflect an understanding that whatever the documents from Morgan Stanley show, their role in the marketplace today should be to increase investor confidence, not get rid of that entity that has been saying that there's a problem.
MOYERS: Reportedly what the industry wants, what Morgan Stanley and others want, would prevent you and every other state Attorney General from imposing any law, rule, regulation, order, administrative action, judgment, consent order or settlement agreement on any company. I mean, what would be the practical effect of that?
SPITZER: It would be an invitation to fraud, because they may say, "well, we're Morgan Stanley, we won't do bad things." But they would get us out of the business, and we've been in the business for years, decades, getting rid of ponzi schemes, boiler room operations. We have gotten out of the marketplace bad people, and they don't want us to do that.
MOYERS: And it would mean that you could not investigate whether stock analysts were misleading investors.
SPITZER: Absolutely. The entire effort that we began a year ago that led to what I think are important revelations would not have been permitted.
MOYERS: Wouldn't this kind of thing also have prevented the tobacco industry from being investigated by the states Attorney General...
SPITZER: Yes, it's the same theory. They don't want us to be there representing the public, and I would say it's a horrendous idea.
MOYERS: What do you think it would do to investor confidence?
SPITZER: I think it would be devastating. And I've argued that to business leadership saying," you misunderstand. Instead of fighting us, work with us. Step up to the plate, put in place those reasoned smart measures that will restore investor confidence so that Mr. and Mrs. Smith on main street whose money we need to be invested in the stock market for capital formation, so they're confident that they can trust you. By being defensive and trying to get rid of the cops on the beat, you're playing to the worst possible motivations."
MOYERS: To be fair to them, they say that this... All the protection they want is simply to set uniform standards of federal regulation, that it isn't fair for them to have to live under 50 state laws, 50 sets of regulations, that it's just not efficient or profitable.
SPITZER: Two points. First, the environment they've lived under for decades is the one they say doesn't work. Clearly it has worked. Second, that's not what they're doing. If all they were saying is, let's get uniformity, but you can enforce the uniform rule, that would be fine. But the amendment they drafted gets us out of the business entirely. It removes us from the beat and says, you have no role to play in an area where we've been a critical part of protecting the public.
MOYERS: One of the paradoxes to me is that people like this often say... I mean, some of them are conservatives and they say, you know, "we don't want the federal government involved in this. Let's let the states have it until something like this comes up."
SPITZER: They're being hung on their own petard. For a decade and more they have been screaming about a new federalism, moving power back to the states because they didn't like the Washington bureaucracy. Now that we at the state level are beginning to act, they're saying, we don't like that either, and they're handcuffing me.
MOYERS: The senate banking committee didn't give the industry the change it wanted when it reported out a bill on the accounting industry a couple of days ago, but it could still happen behind the scenes, because any one of a number of senators could go in there in a conference when the house and the senate get together out of the public eye, and could get this passed when... Or get it inserted into the legislation...
MOYERS: ...and you wouldn't know about it until after the fact.
SPITZER: That's my concern. Senator Sarbanes has been spectacular. I really have to give him a pat on the back. I think he's been a wonderful voice for reason. But there are many other forces at play down there, and I'm very worried that these other forces will slip it in in the dark of night. We won't know about it until it's too late.
MOYERS: would it surprise you to know that Morgan Stanley in the last election cycle gave almost $1 million to political action committees, parties, and candidates?
SPITZER: These days, Bill, nothing would surprise me.
MOYERS: Let me just read you the list from the... This is from the Federal Election Commission, of the top contributors, the five top contributors in 2001 and 2002. Goldman Sachs, $1,492,000; Morgan Stanley, $940,000; D.E. Shaw & Co., $607,000; Paloma Partners, $526,000; NASDAQ Stock Market, $510,00 ,Norberg, Merrill Lynch... I mean, it goes right on down.
SPITZER: This is the problem.
MOYERS: These are the top financial contributors to the parties and the candidates.
SPITZER: As we've discussed, the problem is that the committee that has oversight, the committee that is supposed to represent the public, simply doesn't have the distance, it doesn't have the willpower, it doesn't have the guts, to look at the problem with objectivity. And rather than confront the problem, they're trying to handcuff the people who are trying to protect the public.
MOYERS: Who's on your side?
SPITZER: Well, the public is on our side, and frankly, the editorial boards. When I go out there and people say, yes, we support what you're doing, at the end of the day I do have a deep-seated belief that will prevail. At the end of the day there will be such outrage when the public finds out what Morgan Stanley is trying to do, what a few of these Congress members are trying to do, that it won't succeed. But it requires the public being educated about what's going on.
MOYERS: You've inspired a lot of fear and loathing on Wall Street. I mean, they even accuse you of ambition.
SPITZER: Right. (laughs)
MOYERS: I mean, you are a politician.
SPITZER: Well, I'll say something bizarre. I'm not sure what's wrong with ambition as long as you're right. And what I've said is that yes, they've attacked me as being ambitious, but they haven't said I'm wrong. And as long as the most they can say is that he wants to do well enough maybe to get another job someday, but they can't say that my theory is wrong, our facts are wrong, or what we're doing to protect the public is wrong, then I'll accept that criticism.
MOYERS: what's been the response of others on Wall Street? Have you had any positive...
MOYERS: Has anybody called up?
SPITZER: There has been some very affirmative response by some of the leading investment banks, in fact, who have said, "don't pair us with the Morgan Stanley effort." We understand there's a more sophisticated response that is necessary. And some of the investment houses have said, "what can we do? What rules can we set?" Even Merrill Lynch, quite oddly, with whom we had our first major battle, they seem right now to be saying, "wait a minute, let's move forward. Let's articulate rules that work for the public." So I think that Morgan Stanley is leading one faction that is out there taking a perverse and unfortunate view. There's another view that some of the other investment houses Have articulated which recognizes what needs to be done.
MOYERS: Why did they do it so open so boldly? Is it naiveté or arrogance?
SPITZER: Or both. I don't know. I was amazed when I first heard about it. I said, this can't be the case. But of course, it is. I simply don't know.
MOYERS: you think the story's over?
SPITZER: Not yet. I think there are many chapters to be written, there are many fights to be fought.
MOYERS: Thank you very much, Attorney General Spitzer.
SPITZER: Thank you, Bill.
MOYERS: Congress may give high priority to protecting Wall Street, it's not doing the same for Main Street.
MOYERS: Communities across the country were up in arms this week over a government plan to truck nuclear waste to Nevada. The route would pass through some of our largest cities, even though authorities shrug their shoulders when asked what to do in case of an accident. The nation's mayors are having none of it. They voted unanimously this week to ban the shipments until more is known about the risks. We can learn something about toxic risks from the residents of Anniston, Alabama. They've been living with a toxic bomb for many years. The only thing is, no one told them just how dangerous it was; not the company that produced the poison, not the state or federal governments that should have been looking out for their citizens. Unlike the big firms on Wall Street, main street Anniston had no friends in high places.
"NOW's" Keith Brown reports.
BROWN: come to eastern Alabama, to Anniston, a manufacturing town of 64,000, and you'll hear a lot of stories about sick people.
HELEN BEARD: I lost my husband, 1991. He had throat cancer.
SHEA SHEPARD: I had a hysterectomy when I was 23, and I still hurt and I have a lot of female problems.
SALLIE FRANKLIN: In my neighborhood, a lot of my neighbors died with cancer.
HELEN BEARD: And when my husband passed away, the same year in '91, I learned that my daughter, she was in her early 40s, she also had cancer.
BROWN: this community feels abandoned and betrayed. It's a place where no one has explained the skin rashes, cysts and tumors that seem as common as the crab apples and plums the people here used to eat from the trees.
DAVID BAKER: you go to these different homes and see what you come up with: nothing but people talking about respiratory problems and cancer.
BROWN: David Baker grew up in west Anniston. His brother died of brain and lung cancer at 17. There's no proof, but Baker and many other west Anniston residents point a finger at a long-time neighbor for their health problems: Monsanto, the company that once manufactured polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as P.C.B.s. An industrial chemical, P.C.B.s were mostly used for insulation in electrical equipment to prevent fires. They were manufactured beginning in the 20s, but banned by the U.S. government in 1979 after it was discovered they did not break down in the environment and were linked to cancer. For almost 40 years, Monsanto dumped P.C.B.s into this landfill, now contained behind a chain-link fence. The company stopped producing the fire-resistant material back in 1977. But the people of Anniston are now living with Monsanto's awful legacy: one of the worst cases of pollution this country has ever seen. But has that pollution caused all the illness here? That's what no one has ever been able to establish, much to the dismay of the citizens here, for whom the anecdotal evidence is overwhelming.
BAKER: This is all that protects this community, so whatever they done and whatever they were making there back then and whatever they buried on that landfill just not staying there anymore, have now reached out to the community and they need to pay the price for what they have done.
BROWN: There's no question that P.C.B.s have seeped outside the plant. From 1956 to 1971 alone, Monsanto's Anniston plant produced close to 500 million pounds of P.C.B.s. Excess P.C.B.s, 10 million pounds of them, were legally put into landfills on Monsanto's property. However, the toxic chemical migrated off site, seeping into the creeks and the streams. Flooding carried the P.C.B.s into the soil, contaminating yards, parks, and private property. Though the full extent of the contamination has still not been determined, there's evidence of P.C.B.s as far as 40 miles away from the plant.
DR. HOWARD FRUMKIN: Anniston has the highest levels of P.C.B. exposure of any town in America, of any town that I've ever heard of.
BROWN: The tragedy of this story is that no one has ever conducted the appropriate studies to determine the full extent of the contamination, and what effects it has had on the health of the people here. In fact, those who knew of the contamination never told the residents of Anniston of the potential danger that surrounded them. And many residents, including David Baker, believe Monsanto deliberately kept them in the dark.
BAKER: This is over 50 years of them covering up what they have done. And now you can see the effects.
BROWN: you say cover up. What do you mean?
BAKER: Well, the cover up means that they knew that this stuff was in the water.
BROWN: in fact, Monsanto's own documents reveal the company knew P.C.B.s were seeping into the community as early as 1970. Yet it would be more than two decades before they told their neighbors.
SALLIE FRANKLIN: We were poor people on both side of the plant. It didn't matter about what color, race you was, you were poor. And I felt like that was the reason they didn't tell us. They just didn't care.
BROWN: It wasn't until 1993, when a fisherman caught a severely deformed fish from Chocolocco Creek, about five miles downstream from the plant that the community woke up to the pollution in its midst. But it wasn't until two years later, in 1995, that Monsanto told the people who lived nearest to the west Anniston plant that the P.C.B.s had leeched onto their property, now people like Sallie Franklin.
SALLIE FRANKLIN: They robbed me of my health. They robbed my kids of their health. They robbed me of my home. To you, it might not be much, but this is my home. I love my home.
BROWN: These days, Franklin's house is practically surrounded by tall chain-link fencing with warning signs. She wears a surgical mask to mow the lawn.
SALLIE FRANKLIN: If I had known at that particular time, I probably would have moved away for the health of my children.
CLAUDETTE GILBERT: I'd never eaten those crab apples or the muscadines or the plums or the persimmons or played in the little pond. But if you don't know, you can't correct it. You can't do anything about it.
BROWN: Claudette Gilbert and her daughters moved to a neighboring town in the 1980s, but they'd already been exposed to P.C.B.s for years.
BROWN: they came back to Anniston recently and met up with their old neighbor, Sallie Franklin.
That's one that used to play with Rudy all the time.
BROWN: They're back to do what a lot of people here have been doing now that they are learning the truth about the extent of the contamination: getting their blood tested for P.C.B.s.
ALYCE MACNEAL: I have one little boy. He'll be seven in august and I breast fed him, and they said that if my tests come back positive, they would want to test him.
BROWN: What does that do to a mother?
MACNEAL: It's scary. I really didn't want to know for myself, but I want to know for my little boy, so I'll know.
BAKER: What happened is basically that this is one of the particular areas that was first targeted.
BROWN: David Baker took us to an area just beyond the P.C.B. plant. There, in 1995, Monsanto voluntarily bought out more than 100 homes and small businesses. Other properties were just abandoned.
What's left is a vast overgrown field with scattered remnants of a once-thriving community. Snow Creek runs all along here. Kids used to play here.
BAKER: Oh, yeah.
BROWN: In the creek.
BAKER: I used to play there.
BROWN: 200,000 pounds of P.C.B.s have already been dredged from this creek. For years people ate fish from the contaminated waters, and planted their vegetables in soil loaded with P.C.B.s. Nowadays, to avoid further exposure, some residents have resorted to planting greens in five-gallon plastic buckets.
BAKER: You have your children now that don't want to play outside on the grass, and parents are monitoring them to make sure that they don't.
BROWN: In 1998, Baker formed a group called community against pollution, cap, to take on the polluters. By that time, Monsanto had spun its chemical division into a new company, called Solutia.
BAKER: All this city and all this county is asking, you made the mess; clean it up, and clean up these people's property. Take care of these people.
BROWN: Solutia argues it has taken significant steps to do just that, spending millions of dollars on testing and clean- up, and removing P.C.B.s from the most contaminated properties. For the last two years, David Cain has been Solutia's Anniston plant manager.
DAVID CAIN: We have sampled over 8,000 acres and 40 miles of waterways. We've sampled soil and sediment from here down to lake Logan and martin. We have spent over $46 million in cleaning up those areas that we've found already.
BROWN: Solutia is removing front yards loaded with P.C.B.s. It's replaced P.C.B.-laden soil in a neighboring town with new dirt and made a ball field. The company even built a new church to the replace an old one that sat on contaminated ground, at a cost of $2 million.
CAIN: We're going to be here to see this issue through.
DONALD STEWART: I don't think they mean a word of what they've said to you about that.
BROWN: Donald Stewart is a former United States Senator and an Anniston attorney. A group of 3,500 west Anniston residents has hired Stewart to sue Monsanto and Solutia.
STEWART: They never released the reports to the public. Never said a word to anybody about those things. Just hid them in the bowels of this company.
BROWN: The plaintiffs are seeking compensation for damages to their community, their property, and their health. To help prove the case, Stewart has ordered blood tests for thousands of his clients. The results are alarming to an independent scientist who has kept a close eye on P.C.B.s in Anniston.
DR. HOWARD FRUMKIN: In Anniston, the distribution has shifted towards higher levels. It's as if you took a population with normal P.C.B. levels and shifted the whole distribution of P.C.B. levels up towards higher numbers.
BROWN: Dr. Howard Frumkin, chair of Emory University's Rollins School of Public Health, explains most of us have some P.C.B.s in our blood; the average level is two parts per billion. In a survey of 3,000 Anniston residents whose blood was tested for the lawsuit, more than a third had levels greater than ten parts per billion, and 41 tested greater than 100 parts per billion. David Baker recently found out he has 341 parts per billion in his blood. At what level does it become dangerous?
DR. FRUMKIN: There's not a good answer for that. But with all of toxicology, as your level gets higher, the odds get worse. As your level gets higher, the chances that one of those health effects that P.C.B.s may cause will affect you increases.
BROWN: Studies have demonstrated that P.C.B.s affect the immune, reproductive, and nervous systems. They are suspected to cause cancer in humans, and there is also strong evidence that P.C.B.s can impair the development of children.
DR. FRUMKIN: They can interfere with the normal development of the fetus and the early child: stunted growth, impaired body size, stunted development of normal behaviors and milestones, limited cognitive function.
BROWN: But there is no definitive medical or scientific proof linking P.C.B. exposure to illnesses in Anniston. No comprehensive health study on the people of Anniston has ever been conducted.
DR. FRUMKIN: Imagine how you'd feel if you had an exposure to a toxic material. You're sick in some way, and nobody can really tell you whether the exposure caused the sickness. What a frustrating place to be.
SHIRLEY BAKER: My older daughter was born in September 1970 with low birth weight and heart problems. She remained in special ed classes throughout school because of slow learning.
BROWN: Frustrated, David Baker and his wife, Shirley, a nurse, decided to at least conduct a health survey in Anniston. We asked them to read a few of the responses for us. Here is one from a 47-year-old mother.
SHIRLEY BAKER: "I really hate to think that where we live has something to do with my families misfortune. Just to think that by moving away could have saved my daughter saddens me a great deal."
BROWN: They've collected more than 25,000 responses.
SHIRLEY BAKER: When you have ten-year-old girls who have uterine cancer, and we have children with all kinds of deformities and stuff. And like the lady just said, it's sad to think that they if they had been told about this early enough, they could have moved.
BROWN: These are moving, even devastating anecdotes, but they remain just that, anecdotes.
DR. FRUMKIN: The fact is, the science is limited. We just don't know enough to answer everybody's questions yet. And one of the things we need to do quickly is learn more so that we can answer people's questions and take the best care of them possible.
BROWN: What it would take to start to answer people's questions are comprehensive health studies?
STEWART: And this would be a perfect place to do it. Unfortunately for us, I think Monsanto will do everything they can to stop that, because they don't want that to happen.
BROWN: Why not?
STEWART: Well, to prove the link. That's what they're afraid of.
BROWN: Solutia claims it would welcome health studies in Anniston.
DAVID CAIN: If this debate can be answered one way or the other, it will be the one chance for this community to move forward.
BROWN: If the studies show that there is a link between P.C.B.s and the illnesses people have here, is Solutia willing to take responsibility for that?
CAIN: I think at that time Solutia will have to take a look and see what the data represents. And I can't speculate what Solutia will or will not do, but I can tell you we do support a health study. And if the data were to prove conclusively, that I am sure Solutia would do the right responsible thing.
BROWN: Studies or no, this February the people of Anniston could finally claim a victory in court. An Alabama jury found Monsanto and Solutia liable for the P.C.B. contamination and for covering it up for decades. In the next phase of the lawsuit, plaintiffs will testify to their health problems. The floodgates are now open to multimillion-dollar claims for property damage and personal injury. As part of the jury verdict, Solutia is also liable for the cleanup of the P.C.B. contamination. But on the issue of cleaning up Anniston, the company has struck a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that may supersede anything a state court has to say. This agreement, known as a consent decree, gives Solutia responsibility for the conducting the studies for the clean-up. And it also lets Solutia decide just how the cleanup will be carried out.
DONALD STEWART: They have no intentions of doing the kind of cleanup that's necessary. They have no intentions of taking care of the responsibility they have toward our clients.
DAVID CAIN: We've identified 25 properties in this community that require immediate cleanup. And to date-- and we've known about these properties for some time-- to date, we've only been able to get in and clean up at best probably ten to 12, and we can't get at the others because their attorneys will not allow us access to those properties.
STEWART: Well, there's a reason for that. It's sort of like letting the fox in the hen house. Our folks are a little reluctant to let them come on their property and to do something since they haven't been inclined to do that. And let me say something. They didn't decide they wanted to do that with any degree of... I'd say significant effort until after the liability worry. Then all of a sudden they decided that they wanted to rush to E.P.A., hug them up, and come in here and really clean up. So I think the E.P.A. is as close to this industry as any regulatory agency I've ever seen.
BROWN: E.P.A.'s agreement with Solutia has spurred accusations of a conflict of interest. The chief E.P.A. administrator of region four, jimmy palmer, represented a foundry in Anniston that may now be liable for the cleanup of some of the town's other contaminates. He recused himself. And the deputy director of the E.P.A., Linda fisher, was once a Monsanto executive.
STANLEY MEIBERG: No, there is no conflict of interest. The deputy administrator has recused herself from any matters involving Monsanto, and she has had no contact on this case.
BROWN: Stanley Meiberg is deputy administrator of the E.P.A.'s regional office in Atlanta. He points out the E.P.A. will have the power to strictly supervise all of Solutia's efforts.
MEIBERG: We think the consent decree in fact is a vehicle that will enable us to really get this cleanup moving and make sure that the responsible party is paying for the costs.
BROWN: For many Anniston residents, the consent decree is too little, too late.
BROWN: Not only are they concerned about Solutia being the one to determine the extent of the cleanup, they're also angry that the E.P.A. and Solutia ignored their health concerns entirely in the decree.
DAVID BAKER: You see, we need immediate help now. You see we're in an I.C.C. unit, our blood is pouring out and we need someone to suture the wound now. We don't need anybody to keep band-aiding this stuff until some more people die.
BROWN: when the E.P.A. held a public meeting for comment before the agency finalized its deal with Solutia, that anger sprang to the surface.
ANNISTON WOMAN: The man done messed up everything God put here. I have cancer at the base of my brain between my pituitary gland and right eye. I've had six tumors removed out of my breast, one when I was 30 years old. Somebody need to worry about us.
BROWN: Is there any way that the E.P.A. can mandate that Solutia be responsible for the care of people who've been exposed to P.C.B.s?
MEIBERG: I don't know that any federal agency has the authority to require Solutia to provide healthcare to people in Anniston.
BROWN: Solutia's responsible for the contamination. It's been determined that P.C.B.s are linked to neurological problems and disorders, possibly cancer, as well. Shouldn't they therefore be responsible for the healthcare of the people who've been affected by it?
MEIBERG: To do that you would have to make a very clear determination that a particular health consequence was a result of exposure to P.C.B.s. And while we believe there is ample reason for concern about exposures to P.C.B.s, to take an individual case and draw that exact cause and linkage is a challenging medical...
BROWN: because there's been no health study, so it's kind of a catch-22?
MEIBERG: That's right. Well, in the sense that, again, we do not have the authority to require that specific medical provisions be provided for people in the communities and Anniston itself.
DR. FRUMKIN: In our healthcare and public health system, nobody really has primary responsibility. And towns like Anniston can easily fall between the cracks.
BROWN: why are you still here. Why haven't you left?
HELEN BEARD: If I have P.C.B. in me, the damage is already done. Everybody can't leave their home simply because of this big company.
SALLIE FRANKLIN: It been like hell. It been like hell, I'll tell you the truth. You think you're almost there, you come to find out you're just as far as you was when it seemed like when you first started. So it's been hell.
BROWN: The battle in Anniston is far from over. Another lawsuit is gearing up. This time famed attorney Johnny Cochran will take on Monsanto and Solutia on behalf of another 15,000 current and former Anniston residents. Claudette Gilbert and her daughters are a part of that lawsuit.
SHEA SHEPARD: I want them to clean up, you know.
CLAUDETTE GILBERT: And take care of the people that are sick.
SHEA SHEPARD: Yeah. The people that are sick. You know, a lot of these people are really old that are around here. They, you know, can't afford to keep going to the doctors after doctors. Just take care of the people that's sick.
BROWN: Are the folks here tired?
BAKER: Oh, yeah.
BROWN: This has been a long...
BAKER: Oh yeah.
BROWN: It's been a long battle.
BAKER: Oh yeah, oh yeah, oh yeah. Especially those that is sitting back right now and knowing that they are sick and ill, and they keep saying, "well, if I'm ever going to get any type of restitution for what happened to me, I wish they'd go on and give it to me before I pass." And many of them have passed.
MOYERS: in one of the many letters that passed between them, Thomas Jefferson reminded his friend James Madison, that "the earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on." Not that Jefferson had to do the laboring; he had slaves for that. But the point is well taken. Earth has been ours to live on and off of. And as the folks in Anniston, Alabama, just reminded us, we're leaving our mark on it. The photographer Emmet Gowin has been taking the measure of the human footprint on the earth. His stunning aerial photographs are now gathered into a new called "changing the earth." It's part of an exhibition that will soon be traveling across the country. Watch for it as you watch for those trucks rumbling past your back yard carrying toxic nuclear waste. Emmet Gowin on "Changing the Earth."
GOWIN: We are made out of the earth. We are stardust. It feeds us. It gives us the water that we drink. It is our spiritual sustenance. We're tied to this earth. It emotionally supports our very being. Again and again, you can read the natural physicality of the landscape through the marks and layers that humans have imposed on the landscape. It was a small community near St. Louis, beside a river; it seemed so pastoral, and this quiet village was just that until the cancer rate shot up, and it turned out that the contractor was spraying the streets with oil laced with this chemical material, which is a carcinogen. Once it was discovered what was the cause of the cancer, all of the inhabitants of the village were evacuated and the village abandoned.
GOWIN: I was flying out with a pilot out of globe, Arizona. We'd just come outside the city limits of an area that had been used as a trailer park, and obviously something's happened. The trailer park is picked up and moved. For me, the most important thing in this fragile landscape where there's so little rainfall-- scars like these, car paths-- it's not something that's going to go away. In 1,000 years, there'll be still some traces of this activity.
GOWIN: This is toxic water treatment facility in pine bluff, Arkansas. It's a system of aeration pumps that force chemically-laden water up into the air, and it's frightening to think that this water-- that doesn't smell good, doesn't look good, I'm sure doesn't feel good-- in the end, is returned to the river from which it was taken.
GOWIN: In the mid-60s when I wanted to go to the Nevada test site, I could imagine an earth surface pockmarked by the collision of this multitude of bombs that had been tested. This great release of energy not only vaporized the earth, but shook it up. And the surface of the crust sags and these are called subsidence craters, dropping into the void where the earth had been. The sense of tragedy when you think about just how many intercontinental ballistic missiles were pointed at the Russians and theirs at us. It was a test to show that the nuclear weapon would be a good way to move earth. Perhaps 100 of them could dig a new panama canal. It was buried some 600 feet deep in the desert, and blew out something like 12 million tons of earth. It's over 1,200 feet in diameter.
GOWIN: I think it's a desperate and terrible mistake to think that we can control the earth, but I think until we face what we've done, we can't begin to really redress or change our path, and I can only think about the moment I'm living in now. This is surely a time for grace and beauty, and it's as if the world doesn't accept that.
MOYERS: we know we're in a political year when the commercials start flying. And this is a big political year, with the control of both the House and Senate up for grabs. Sure enough here come the ads. Take a look at this one:
ANNOUNCER: America's seniors. They have been there for us. We need to be there for them. Congressman John Shadegg has always fought for Arizona's seniors. He voted to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare in 2000. Now Congressman Shadegg is working with President Bush to pass legislation again to add prescription drug coverage to Medicare. He has always stood up for seniors, so stand up for him now. Thank Congressman Shadegg for fighting to add prescription drugs to medicare, and tell him that you'll appreciate his vote again.
MOYERS: We'll be talking about political ads over the coming weeks. And we're starting off tonight with someone who understands what those ads are really selling. Kathleen Hall Jamieson is dean of the Annenberg School for Communication, and one of the country's most respected political analysts. She's written 14 books, including my favorite, this one, EVERYTHING YOU THINK YOU KNOW ABOUT POLITICS AND WHY YOU'RE WRONG. Passionate about democracy and public policy, she brings a lot of experience to looking at political ads and seeing what the rest of us are missing. Welcome to NOW.
JAMIESON: Thank you.
MOYERS: What do you know about the group that is sponsoring that ad we just saw?
JAMIESON: Well, the first thing is that out there, as you look at advertising, that little tiny disclaimer that indicates who the group is isn't going to tell you much when you see it's united seniors. And then it shows U.S.A., as if perhaps the government is bringing you this ad. But the united seniors is an organization that was created by Richard Viguerie, a conservative who helped pioneer direct mail, and helped produce the Reagan revolution by providing a funding stream for it. It's essentially a group that is promoting the Republican view of the world.
MOYERS: Let's pause here while you explain succinctly the difference between the Republican plan for providing drugs to senior citizens and the Democratic plan, because we're going to hear a lot about that in the next few months in the Congressional campaign.
MOYERS: What's the difference?
JAMIESON: The first thing that's important is both the Republicans and the Democrats do support coverage. There's going to be a question about whether it comes through private insurers or through government control and Medicare. There's also going to be a question of how much you're going to spend. The current Republican plan on the table spends less than the Democratic plan. And as a result, there are fewer benefits. So the question is going to be, what are the co-pays and the deductibles? Who's in and who's out at what levels of drug purchase?
MOYERS: I want to show you an ad from the 2000 year campaign, the Congressional campaign. It's from an outfit called "Citizens for Better Medicare." Hey, I like that name, by the way, "Citizens for Better Medicare." Here's the ad.
Announcer: We've all heard of seniors going to Canada for their medicines. but have you heard about the seniors who come from Canada to the U.S.? Because Canadians say their government-controlled health system is in crisis. They wait longer for new cures. seniors are too often switched to cheaper, less effective medicines. Yet some politicians want to import Canada's government controls to America. Help Congress say "no thanks."
MOYERS: What's going on there?
JAMIESON: Well, first, the question with any advertising is, who's behind the nice sounding name? Citizens for better Medicare? The pharmaceutical industry. What does the pharmaceutical industry want? It wants a prescription drug benefit, but it doesn't want any price controls. It doesn't want the federal government to start buying for all seniors in a group and driving down prices as a result.
MOYERS: Well, what's Canada got to do with that?
JAMIESON: Well, the argument is that Canada has lower prescription drug costs than we do because Canada has a price control system. And so what this ad is essentially saying is, "don't buy that it's cheaper in Canada argument, because actually the Canadians are just desperate. They're coming to the United States to get good health care." But you notice what that ad doesn't say. Pharmaceutical costs are lower in Canada. And when you read the little fine print, the sourcing that supposedly legitimizes the claim, the...
MOYERS: The Frazier institute.
JAMIESON: The Frazier institute is a conservative think tank in Canada that has done a study of the comparative pharmaceutical costs in Canada and the United States. Now, its headline is there's variability in both places. Of course there is. And its second headline is, so you could actually get a good deal in the United States comparable to what you could get in Canada if you really shopped around. But underneath that, in the interests of disclosure because these are scholars who are putting this together, they have to say that that the costs overall are lower in Canada. The ad didn't tell you that the Frazier institute found that.
ANNOUNCER: They wait longer for new cures.
JAMIESON: The ad doesn't say, "well, the pharmaceuticals in Canada are more expensive... Uh, as expensive." It says, "Canadians are coming to the U.S. for the latest technology." We're not getting the cures as fast as you're getting them in the United States. Well, that's really odd, because the cures shouldn't be stopping at the border. What the pharmaceutical industry is arguing is, that if you cut our profits down, and that's what this is about, we won't have the money to put into research to get you the new breakthroughs that you need.
MOYERS: Is that true?
JAMIESON: Well, the... The profits in the pharmaceutical industry are, in the judgment of many, quite ample. The question is, how much profit is necessary, and how much research would we get for every incremental increase in profits? But underlying this is that very important question is, how much is enough? And of course we want the pharmaceutical industry to continue to do research that will produce breakthroughs.
Many of us owe our lives to pharmaceutical products that have been produced that have given us normal lives. Particularly in areas that are very, very troubling in society, such as the psychotropic drugs that keep people with mental disorders functional and well.
Tamoxifen, one of the drugs at issue, which is substantially less expensive in Canada than in the United States, which keeps people with breast cancer alive more... You know, longer, because they have less... Have less likelihood of recurrence. Now here's the problem: in Canada, the woman with breast cancer who's told by her doctor, "you need five years of tamoxifen," is able to get the tamoxifen because she's got a prescription drug benefit. What happens in the United States to the woman who has breast cancer and can't afford the drug because the cost is so high? And that's the issue here for that woman as she looks at this ad.
Is it true that, because there's universal health care provide... coverage provided in Canada, that there's strain in the system, that there are real problems in that? Of course that's true. But there are also problems in the U.S. system without universal access. We don't get instantly scheduled for anything anymore in an era of managed care, even when we have full insurance. So this issue...this ad confuses two issues.
MOYERS: It's a scare issue, isn't it? Because...
JAMIESON: Yeah, yeah.
MOYERS: It's trying to scare us into thinking if we get a drug that... That if we adopt the Canadian system, we won't get good drugs.
JAMIESON: It's creating the implication that if we got the Canadian system, we'd die.
JAMIESON: We wouldn't get the technology. We wouldn't get the drugs we need, when the problem right now is, if you don't have the money in the U.S., you don't get the drugs that you need, either.
MOYERS: Well, you... We keep saying that the pharmaceutical industry most of this. But there's nothing in that ad to suggest that the pharmaceutical industry is paying for it.
JAMIESON: And that's part of the problem with this form of issue advocacy advertising. Nothing requires that label to tell you, "we're the drug companies, and we think we deserve these profits because with these profits, we're going to give you these technologies. And you ought to weigh the comparative advantage of that over against the benefit that might restrain some of our profits."
MOYERS: Issue advertising. Define that for us.
JAMIESON: Issue advocacy advertising is what you just saw. Citizens for Better Medicare is an issue advocacy group set up largely by the pharmaceutical industry to advance its interests in the debate. The problem is, there is nothing in the law that requires that it tell us that it's the pharmaceutical industry or that it tells how much it's paying for the campaign.
Citizens for Better Medicare, created in 1999 from the pharmaceutical industry revenue stream, spent about $50-plus million with a message the ultimately favored the Republican alternative on prescription drugs. One that would go through private insurers, wouldn't contain government interference. The major ad campaign had Flo as a spokesman, charming older woman who said, "get government out of my medicine cabinet."
MOYERS: We have a commercial with Flo here. Let's take a look at it.
OLDER WOMAN: Look at all these letters spill. (laughs)
FLO: Last year, Congress started the debate. How to make sure all seniors have prescription drug coverage so we can all afford our medicines. And now there's good news. Seniors are joining hands to support new plans in Congress based on the work of the national bipartisan Medicare commission. Plans to help seniors who have private drug coverage to keep it. And seniors who need it, to get it. Knowing we're all covered, that's peace of mind. Let's join hands.
MOYERS: Who's Flo working for?
JAMIESON: Flo's working for the pharmaceutical industry. And the person who produced this ad is Alex Costellanos.
MOYERS: Who is he?
JAMIESON: Alex Costellanos, major Republican advertiser, very effective, who also produced the Republican National Committee's ads for George Bush. This is a group that supports the Republican alternative on prescription drug benefits. And you heard the key line in the ad: "don't jeopardize private coverage." Don't have government deciding this.
What is not being said here is that as long as you put this project... This process through private insurers, no government getting everybody bundled in one group to drive those costs down. And if government were to do that, all the other insuring groups would do the same thing. They'd say, "we want that rate that the government got." So depressing pharmaceutical industry profits. Stay through a private insurance model, don't depress industry profits. That's what Flo is telling us.
MOYERS: Do you have a problem with this ad?
JAMIESON: My problem with the ad is that at a time in which we should be debating the specifics and ask whether this solves the problem, we are, instead, engaging in a dialogue that is almost dealing at a metaphoric level. I mean, people look at this...
MOYERS: What do you mean?
JAMIESON: People look at this and mistakenly believe that the Flo is standing for is some kind of universal benefit for everyone, that they're going to find highly desirable. And the question is going to be: when they actually see the plan that they've just backed, when they send their postcard or they make their phone call into citizens for better America, are they going to be astonished to find that the plan didn't have everything in it that they thought it had: that is, a lot cheaper prescription drugs for them at a lot lower cost out of pocket.
MOYERS: Have we reduced everything down to images and sound bites so that the public doesn't really know what is in either party's proposal or what its stake is?
JAMIESON: We're almost campaigning, when we have this sort of advertising, at the general... The general level of mindless reassurance. We're almost saying to people, "don't worry. It's going to be all right. We're going to take care of you."
And the problem, of course, is if you believe that, and then, what ultimately happens doesn't take care of you, first, your needs aren't met, but secondly, you're somewhat disaffected with the political process. That's the danger. There's also in this the absence of a challenge to the viewing electorate to actually grapple with the arguments on each side. The Republicans have a coherent, cogent argument for their point of view.
MOYERS: Which is?
JAMIESON: Which is that the pharmaceutical industry needs a high level of profit in order to put back into a process to produce new drugs. And that places like Canada get the advantage on the cheap of the investment that is made possible by the fact that in the U.S. we do pay those higher... Those higher drug prices. And so, essentially, the argument is, those other countries that get the advantage of their price controls also get the advantage of our technology.
But nobody would get it if we dampened down those profits. Now, we should be having that debate. We should be saying, "make the case, pharmaceutical industry." We should say, "make the case for those who oppose it." And part of that's happening in the law courts with a lawsuit that is being filed against some of the major pharmaceutical manufacturers on antitrust grounds, arguing that they've been illegitimately hanging onto their patents for some of these drugs, thus keeping the prices up and keeping generics out of the market.
MOYERS: This is an interesting point, because politics seems unable to grapple with these issues of rising healthcare cost and apportioning benefits. So the fight's going to television and to the courts.
MOYERS: Politics seems to be at an impasse.
JAMIESON: And the question is, why can't we as citizens be trusted to have the debate ourselves in an electoral context, in the context that would lead to representation that would reflect the point of view that came from the debate.
MOYERS: All right. Dr. Jamieson, why can't we citizens have that kind of debate?
JAMIESON: We ought to be able to at a time in which something that affects all of us at issue. Virtually everyone, anyone in your audience knows is using some medication. And many of those medications are things that prolong life, make life better, or life- sustaining. So we have an issue that people care about.
Often, in politics, the problem is that you're dealing with an issue that's so divorced from your daily life that you can't really get your hands around why you should care. Well, you should care whether your tamoxifen is affordable, if you're a breast cancer victim. You should care whether or not you can afford boost bar if you have an anxiety disorder.
And those are two drugs that a court case is arguing the pharmaceutical industry is hanging on to, has hung on to illegitimately through deals and through not engaging in legal practices... Engaging in questionable legal practices. And as a result, what the lawsuits are arguing is that instead of saying in public places, "we should have this now," we're saying in the law courts, "you've deprived us of this now." But we as a public have never asked the question, "why haven't I been able to understand? This is a policy debate." And get it tagged to a legislator for whom I can vote. I can't vote for the court,
MOYERS: What is driving the industry to spend all this money? I mean, their profits are higher than any other industry in America. The prices of drugs here are far higher than they are in any other country. What's their game?
JAMIESON: They are protecting their own self-interest, and they are protecting their own self- interest with this kind of ad, by communicating to people who know that money matters in politics, and know that the pharmaceutical industry has given it an enormous amount of money over the years. They're communicating, "we have money. We have a palatable message. We will deploy it for you or against you. Be warned before you cast this obscure vote on this piece of legislation that people probably haven't even heard of."
MOYERS: So we are seeing ads from small battles in a larger war, and that larger war has the objective of making sure that government does not move into the healthcare field any more significantly than it is now. Right?
JAMIESON: Or that moves, that it moves in ways that maximize and not minimize profits, because the pharmaceutical industry would be very happy to have taxpayers' money put in to providing more drugs for people, as long as that was done at an acceptable profit level. And so I don't want to cast my response as, "there's the good side and the bad side." The pharmaceutical industry is the bad side. And the government alternative is the good side," but rather to cast it as a playing field on which the pharmaceutical industry has a very large voice, and the other side is barely whispering.
The problem isn't that they have a large voice. The problem is the other side is barely whispering. And if you could raise the level of the other voice, and then, if you could get down to the details and have a discussion about what's actually at stake, we might come to an understanding of what is best for us in the U.S., and also best globally.
MOYERS: Thank you very much, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication. We'll do this again. And now a look at stories coming up on NPR radio.
Announcer: Hi, join me on the radio for weekend edition from NPR news. The Supreme Court and F.D.R.'s Washington, and minimalist jazz with a touch of soul and a conversation with law professor and first time novelist Steven Carter on his new book, THE EMPEROR OF OCEAN PARK. To find your local public radio station, go to NPR.org and tune in.
MOYERS: There was a big bash in Washington two nights ago, and drug companies, big pharma, were at the head of the line. President Bush spoke, 21 corporate donors contributed a quarter of million dollars each, and when the evening was done, Republican Congressional candidates had another $30 million or so to spend, much of it on more ads like those we've been talking about.
Democrats grumbled that it was all unseemly, given the fact that this very week the Republicans, by sheer coincidence, no doubt, introduced a prescription drug plan backed by industry. I think the Democrats are just jealous.
Looking at the big companies that sponsored the evening, I thought of the time our teenaged son asked for a raise in his allowance. I said to him, "Don't you know there are some things in life more important than money?" "Yes, dad," he said, "But it takes money to date them."
Like those big Wall Street firms asking Congress to protect them against prosecution, big pharmaceutical companies know how to come courting in Washington. They know what's important, and how much it takes to buy it.
That's it for tonight. I'll be looking for your comments on the web at PBS.org. For "NOW," I'm Bill Moyers.
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