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POLL: On the Economy, Do Reformers Have Enough Momentum to Change the Status Quo?

(Photo by Robin Holland)

This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers asked legal scholar Michael Perino and economist Simon Johnson for their thoughts on Congress’ proposed independent commission to explore what went wrong with the economy and how to prevent it from happening again. Johnson and Perino were skeptical that such a commission would change the status quo in the public interest.

Perino said:

“If you look back at the history of financial regulation, you see the same pattern over and over again. There are always huge biases toward the status quo. People want to keep the structure the way it is because it’s worked well for them. And it’s only when there’s some crisis occurring that the forces for reform are strong enough to overcome the status quo... It sometimes becomes very easy to obscure the broader causes of a financial crisis by doing a little finger pointing and saying ‘Ah ha, here’s the bad person. We found them and, you know, we can move on...’ Unless the political support is there, it's going to be very easy to wind things up without doing much.”

Johnson said:

“I think the banks have control of the state... They got the bailout, they got the money they needed to stay in business, they got a vast line of credit from the taxpayer... they got everything they wanted... If the economy turns around, even if we get a recovery that’s not completely convincing but we sort of feel like we're not falling, and we're not having the massive unemployment of the '20s and '30s, the pressure will come off the banks. They know this. This is why they think they won. They faced down the dangers and they've gone through this difficult phase, and they came through it stronger than ever.”

What do you think? Take our poll and share your thoughts in the space below.


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To force pay into another system of failures within Health Care Insurance Groups.
This economy will not balance with this concept of a tax forum against the Health Care System. The issue of how to force pay into this system of Health Care may have worked but I am still troubled over the progressive tax forum within this Bill. It covers so many items and Countries that it only forces the system to adjust itself. In some areas, increases against the people and the troubled economy, and in other areas, less effects will be felt.
But this is my big problem, Government Officials seek help and they are to proud to ask us, “the true working force of Government.” It is understandable they have failed the People and within the United States Of America all we ask is to see us as who we are and not try to bring us into this world of the intellectual. I guess our Prime Directive is that of Star Trek, so it must be understood that for millions of people we are just as happy as can be making $13.00 per hour and we have no interest in this world of politics, and how to be a Enstine. Government Officials must understand that there is a level of people within different parts of this Country, that seek to be only that they find to make them happy.
As for this economy well, it is said that the U.S.A. Arms Division has created enough arsenal to destroy every last creature in the world 2 times over,built with tax dollars. This would be funny if not for the irony of it. And now as time has passed Government Officials keep failing. Before 9/11 all the way to today.
1.As it is in a world of a system, when employees continue to fail, one or two things happen, one; you get fired, two; if you see into a person a good, then it is political correct to implement a penalty or roll back in pay. But this implement of penalty is more favored in the course of action in the Federal Employment World. So how to fix the economy and unite it with the Health Care issue. It would be in the Countries best interest to implement a 10% per cent penalty against every State, County and Government Official within this Matrix of failures. Hey what is that old saying, what is good for the Goose is good for the Gander. I am serous about this, it is past due to show that our Government Officials they have failed, their system failure reaches into this world of warnings that they brush aside as if the information is not worthy noting. From Pearl Harbor to 9/11/2001 to 3/07/2010 of our tax system and Health Care Reform. This 10% per cent penalty should go into the Health Care Forum.
2. The big problem that Government Officials have is that they have no street credit. President Obama still has some but if he does not take his family and step away from these dueling Parties, that fight over this Health Care Dollar, and stand with Us he will lose all credit from the streets to the county.
3. President Obama, I would say to you, you have one last chance to regain the hopes and dreams of the American People. To reach out in a concept that states, if there is 250 million people in trouble because of these failures, I would give all my money to them and then I would say to all that I gave money to, “I have no money left, would you all please give me $1.00 back and then I would have $250. million dollars to start all over again.”
4. Some have stated that I clam to have spiritual in site or something of the sort. I assure you this is not true, so when I state that I asked God to help, it is my way of saying hey Bobby show me how to work on theses Chevy engines. But I do thank you for the consideration. Consider me a cross of Jethro Bodine from the Beverly Hill Billies with my 10th. Grade education and Vin Diesel from the move Pitch Black.
Henry Massingale
FASC Concepts in and for Pay It Forward on google, look for page 1 american dream official site

Obama and his socialist/liberal policies, will be the ruination of this nation.
His reshaping the very fundamental laws that we hold sacred in our Constitution and Bill of Rights should never be tampered with. Hussein Obama is a 'metro-terrorist', a person put into office by Islam supporters to destroy this nation. I pray to God we survive this madman.

For all of the bogus statements put out by Madoff broadcast to show high returns, you would think that there would be more discussion and debate over tax fraud - with regard to the people he swindled, who paid more in taxes than they should have, and possibly for the IRS in the reporting of all those earnings to the people he "kept" accounts for. Why hasn't tax fraud been a part of that discussion with regard to his partner - over the 50 years? Is the IRS that slow?

Money is heard above people. The top 1% will not give up control without a bloody battle. There is no lack of money in the US. It did not vanish into thin air. It is here, in the hands of the few, who will squeeze the low and (what used to be) middle class, until they have nothing, and have no choice but to accept any job they can get, even if it means living in debt till they die.

People today, do not seem open to, or know how to, stand together as one people to fight oppression from the top 1%. They fall prey to whispers from the top about blacks getting less, or reverse discrimination, or Latinos not having a voice.

We have much bigger fish to fry, and no one is seeing this. Our challenge is our economic system.

The richest folks in the U.S. foster the teachings that capitalism is best, and that socialism is a type of Communism... Totally FALSE. Communism has nothing to do with the economic system.

We have a democracy (of sorts), which means that we may choose socialism over capitalism if we want to. However, we have been brainwashed from birth, to think there is a connection between Communism and socialism. Who stands to gain from that notion? Capitalists, of course!

Capitalists are for taking all you can in the money game, and whoever gets the most, wins.

Socialists are focused on the prosperity of society as a whole, not just the most wealthy.

The top 1% will continue to control everyone and everything until the majority of our citizens realize the difference between capitalism and socialism, and make decisions for our financial future based on knowledge, instead of fear.

"But to expect Congress to conduct an honest investigation into what clobbered our economy is like expecting a crack addict to call the cops on the only dealer he can get credit with.

Nothing good will happen unless the people educate themselves, and then force government to do the right thing".

It may be that people who borrow money to live beyond their means are also crack addicts?

Do your children a favor and stop borrowing, and teach them not to borrow.

The kind of revolution we need starts with a rejection of credit from the masses, this is the beginning of the path to overthrow the obscene concentrations of wealth that exist today.

The populace is ready on this issue above all others. The pitchforks are sharpened and standing in the garage.
However, What reformers are there? I do not know whether Obama is a reformer on this issue, doesn't look like it. I hope I'm wrong.

But, someone please help me, is there any band of reformers (however small) in either house of the congress? If so How can I get in touch with them?

This period of economic chaos is not just a bump in the road to ever more profits for the few at the expense of the many. Even Congress, with its severely entrenched interests here and abroad, will be faced with more serious issues than whether to vote for or against some special interest. No, the momentum for change in people's hearts and minds is not enough. What will be enough will have to be pretty near total collapse.

Excerpted from the Master's article, Share International magazine for May 2009:" The Curse of Commercialization".

If men are to save this planet from the results of global warming they must do infinitely more than is planned to limit carbon emissions, and in a shorter period of time than is generally accepted as necessary. Men have been slow to recognize the dangers, and even now many refuse to take the problems seriously. Such attitudes, there is no doubt, put in jeopardy the future of planet Earth. At most, men have ten to fifteen years in which to establish a balance before irreparable damage is done.
To achieve this goal, men must change dramatically the present way of life, and embrace simpler forms of living and working. Gone are the days in which men raped and ravaged the planet at will, without a thought for the generations still to come, neither seeing nor caring ought for the environment which has gradually and inevitably decayed.
Each year, and for many years, huge areas of ancient primal forest are cleared of life-giving trees for purely commercial benefits. Commercialization indeed bodes ill for humanity as it tightens its grip on the throats of men. Commercialization, is more dangerous to men than the atomic bomb, and is showing its destructive power in the economic chaos which rules in the world today.

How long will it take governments and their peoples to see this? How long till commercialization squeezes the life-blood out of humanity, and itself withers and dies? More and more, the truth of these words is borne in on the minds of millions who now, suddenly, are jobless and homeless and in despair.
Commercialization has bared its claws and shown its power to harm. The complacency of millions is turning into hatred and distrust of commercialization and the old order of things.

Men everywhere are at last ready for a new interpretation of the meaning and purpose of life, for sharing, justice and peace; for right relationship, brotherhood and greater happiness. Of course, not all men have undergone this change. There are many who imagine they can ‘sit out’ this ‘recession’ and rebuild their fortunes as before. The very rich and clever ones have lost nothing. The gap between themselves and others has simply widened in their favour. They fail to understand that
this time is like none other.
We have reached the end of the old order. Cosmic forces dictate the changes that must and will take place, otherwise life would flourish no more on planet Earth.

In time, millions around the world will see the need and the logic of the changes which alone will save the planet and its people.

Is it all a conspiracy or is our state of affairs a random occurance? Our population is seriously lagging in education, our middle class dissapering, millions of our citizens without helath insurance, the wealthy getting richer, banks failling and our taxes bailing them out, 2 of the big three going down the toilet and again taxes bail them out, guaranteed pensions and health benefits for congress,the senate and all federal employees and their families (if im not mistaken),Madoff a scapegoat? Most of Congress and the Senate have no idea about economics...are some of their comments ment to dis-inform us or are they simply that ignorant...history has shown that a revolt purges and rejuvenates as does nature. Unfortunately some if not many people are at a loss when it comes to reason, common sense, equality, the rule of law and justice...we must organize grass roots movements and elect the obscure politicians and or regular joes...and remove complacancy on capital hill......i just get confused with all that is wrong in our nation...i must regroup and focus....ill keep in touch

Community banks did not contribute to the mortgage crisis and all financial sector partipants are not created equally. Mortgage banks, "big" banks, and community banks operate in the mortgage arena in distinctly different ways.

Foreclosure victims shouldn't all be categorized as knowingly entering into loans for homes they could not afford. Some have lost jobs & can't afford their home now; the story accurately reported that many borrowers COULD afford their home at true market value & a 30-year fixed rate. Foreclosure stories and reasons vary case by case.

Similarly, the banking sector is not 100% scoundrels nor did all "banks" identically play in this crisis. Community banks are a key partner in local affordable housing efforts. The jobs they provide and company/ employee donations of time, labor and cash to non-profits, schools, economic development, etc., if aggregated and quantified, would surprise and stagger most. Banks contribute to federal, state, and local tax coffers, unlike some competitors such as credit unions. Community banks are highly regulated, unlike the mortgage banks that created this crisis. Community banks are and will be a backbone to recovering from this mess, including helping stressed home buyers/home owners get into new home purchases or refinancing terms they can afford. In generalizing critique of "banks", consider that if community banks vacated the financial sector premises, U.S. communities and the nation's economic health would be significantly and detrimentally impacted. The resulting void would be challenging to fill.

Two weeks ago, Baltasar Garzón, the Spanish judge who indicted Pinochet many years ago in Spain and did it successfully, began a criminal investigation, or the preliminary steps for one, against six of the Whitehouse lawyers who were involved in the torture program. The investigating judges in Spain are very independent and have a lot of power. Friday, Judge Garzón issued a ten-page opinion, opening a formal criminal investigation—a preliminary one, but nonetheless a criminal investigation—into the torture at Guantánamo.

As a signatory to the international treaty that prohibits torture, we are bound by international law to take action against anyone who violates this treaty, and that includes the political elite in this country. The Spanish judge is essentially telling Obama to handle this mess or we will take it to the World Court. The whole story is at the following link !

Its up to the people. We must keep bugging our elected officals about what WE want done. The more letters, emails, etc they will listen. They want to get re-elected.
There has to be regulation on greed.

As much as I'd like to hope that Congress will finally be on the side of the people, I cannot allow myself to loose sight of the reality of the situation. First off - we've got to have term limits, because these people are just waaayyy to cosy with the moneyed elite, and second we've got to have public financing of elections for the same reason!

These people have received just so much money, that they are no longer responding to "we the people", but much like the Pavlovian dog - when the bell rings they do the bidding of their masters! And yet we still pretend that this is a "Democracy"!

The answer will come Nov. 2010.

Congress is so deeply emeshed in the mess it cannot afford real hearings & without open, before the public sin laundering Congress will evolve a coverup that will work UNLESS
Mainstreet votes out the old Congressional power brokers, AND gets rid of the seniority, power controll, systemically flawed, system.

Good luck fellow citizens on that.

Billy Bob, Florida Congress made a law allowing a party to disallow my vote.

OBAMA/BUSH they just keep giving away money that we do not have(8 billion dodge).Without anyone held accountable or ceos,cfos having to take pay cuts.Only the middleclass/poor have to take pay cuts.All those big bosses should loss their jobs with no pay outs or bonuses.We all know that money we never ever get payed back.Kind of like CLEVELAND OHIO baseball field payed by taxpayers call JACOB FIELD. Now called PROGRESSIVE FIELD after the insurance company took it over.Wonder how much the tax payer got in that sale.Free tickets,beer,hotdog,right how about the shaft! Lets give those NASCAR track owners more money they do not have enough millions.Lets give the people who really really deserve the money.The men and women fighting for our freedom.Now they can not even get a job!!!! Also my hats off to the people of FRANCE because they have guts and band together and protest and make the government know they do not like being shafted.Great job tea party protesters great job.

Your guests once again talked again about solving the problem of “Banks too big to fail”.
There is already a solution in place, it's called Credit Unions.
They provide personal/retail banking at a great price. The national association (CUNA) did a good job of steering its membership away from the high-risk venture of toxic mortgages. We need to reward these folks, not with laws or bailouts, but with our feet. Everybody needs to close their bank account controlled by the bloated oligarchs (there’s that word again) and open a credit union account serving the needs of their local community.
Bring an official of CUNA on the show, or panel of regional Credit Union CEOs and ask them for a solution to America’s banking problem. I’m sure we’ll enjoy the answer.

David H.- Are you in support of Hudson's real estate appreciation tax? What happened to Robert Kuttner?

Hudson says that the "casino" is unsustainable. Where's that good old transparency (glasnost)? AIG and so on are burning our future labor like coal. Who's a better game show host, Howie or Barack?

Robert Hunter says there are libraries are filled with explanatory books about the capitalist updraft. Public libraries usually are not. College libraries are having the truth winnowed out. I see 10 greed and fascism books to one mild paperback by Chomsky types, mere curiosities. Amazon has a gradient against anti-business and anti-establishment material. The Internet illustrates well what "censorship by glut " means. "Parental controls" (search engine cues, preferences and blocks, prying screens decide what we can see and how long our search will take. Hudson is harder to access than Kuttner.

suggested droplets

Another great program!

Most Americans understand that as long as corporate campaign financial contributions are legally allowed, business elites/oligarchs will have the power and influence over our elected officials. The question is why so many Americans keep voting these corrupt elected officials back into office. In order to get a different result, vote their opposition into office. Now that would be real change to believe in!

Ye; the Chinese symbol for the best solution for a particular problem...
The first requirement for fixing any problem is to know what needs fixing.
When it comes to the economy; what needs fixing is: insufficient demand side wages; excessive interest rates; Lack of funding; monopoly pricing undermining competition;lobbyistsbuying political influence; inflationary prices; unrealistic expectations; wasteful use of resources.
There needs to be a concerted effort to fix all of these problems or we will be swamped with financial disasters.
If we are going to clear the swamp; we will need to remove the alligators up to the arm pits to start with or we will all be eaten alive.

When I watched your show on Friday night I couldn't help but think of that scene in Raiders of Lost Ark. The scene in the market place where the man the swords is swinging them in a menacing way at Indiana Jones. Then Indiana Jones pulls out his gun and just shoots the man with the swords. Whenenver I listen to somebody talk about the economy and its corruption they remind me of the man with the swords. Threatening and menancing but all it takes is somebody to realize that all we need to do is take action and the fight is over. All we ever do is talk about how we can't do anything about it or how complicated it is. It's not complicated arrest a bunch of thieves and put them in jail and suddenly ten or twenty trillion dollars would reappear. If we keep watching the man with the swords nothing will ever happen which is what he wants.

"Do reformers have enough momentum to change the status quo in the public interest"?

To change the status quo in the public interest is
to Amend the Constitution!
To empower the people to express their "WILL on ALL ISSUES!

I certainly agree that the anatomy of the The Great Crash of 1929, The S&L Crash in the 80s, and Crash of 2008 and our present disaster proves the best way to rob a bank is to own one. These three great economic events were each brought on by sly manipulation from within.

This outrageous class of "pro business" enterpreneurs pump up the volicity of money, the central bankers print more money, and the fools rush in and run up debt. Ultimately, a precious few wind up with with the lion's share of this shell game.

How strange it is that nobody gets indicted. Please don't bother to mention Ken Lay and Bernie Madoff.

They protect their on, the way of ancient guilds.

Americans have been in a trance for forty years. Most of us and especially our kids couldn't fight their way out of a wet paper bag, when it comes to standing up for ourselves. The people who have stolen our very dignity as humans, have won without opposition. Still, all we can think about is what kind of stuff do we have and what stuff should we buy next and aren't things like baseball and vacations and big screen tv's wonderful.

The criminality is obvious, but I haven't heard of any individuals or organizations, that are willing to mount any kind of fight. Where's the angry crowds and demonstrations?

Even this last Bill Moyers show has left it to Obama to get the needed changes done. Not gonna happen. It looks, very much to me, that he is one of them.

I certainly agree that the anatomy of the The Great Crash of 1929, The S&L Crash in the 80s, and Crash of 2008 and our present disaster proves the best way to rob a bank is to own one. These three great economic events were each brought on by sly manipulation from within.

This outrageous class of "pro business" enterpreneurs pump up the volicity of money, the central bankers print more money, and the fools rush in and run up debt. Ultimately, a precious few wind up with with the lion's share of this shell game.

How strange it is that nobody gets indicted. Please don't bother to mention Ken Lay and Bernie Madoff.

They protect their on, the way of ancient guilds.

People today have to be physically and mentally pushed to the brink of collapse before they are ready to react. Ignorance is bliss, for most Americans who opted not to be informed and cherish being misinformed by the mainstream media. Even in the free information age, where access is at your fingertips, most choose not to seek anything of the sort. So I think the true depth of these extraordinary times, with our negative history resurfacing, gets lost with Americans thirst for simplified punditry.

The only way for this (feudal) form of Democracy to be overthrown is by the grass roots of citizens around the world demanding more accountability of their politicians & Governments and not be lulled back into a sense of complacent satisfaction at the obtuse answers we recieve. Telling our Governments that we are ruled by the citizens we elect NOT by the avaritic farcinorous corporations and their henchmen. I am given to surmise that all our politicians are "made men/women", the corruption has been almost absolute.

Just my opinion. I think that the people are or will be behind them if Congress would move to do something but I don't see them moving. In fact, they seem to be doing a pretty good job of ignoring the people's will.

At this point, I don't know what the answer is other than voting anti=incumbent.

Perino's statement is inaccurate. The bias between financial crises is not toward maintenance of the status quo, but rather toward deregulation.

After any major economic collapse, there is temporary public attention. If the public is able to figure out what went wrong, necessary reforms might be enacted.

But as soon as the public eye glances away, a little deregulatory gnome comes along to peck away at the regulations with his tiny pickaxe. One after another, more gnomes join him.

Before long, the devilish swarm has chipped away enough to produce a cave-in. The public is left to clean up the mess, and perhaps reinstate some regulation.

Yes, it's true that cave-ins occur naturally sometimes. But as any spelunker knows, the primary cause is nearly always gnomes.

Any big-city pest exterminator will tell you that the best way to prevent damage from gnomes is to keep them out of Congress in the first place. And the best way to prevent gnome infestation is to get rid of the campaign contributions they feed upon.

In the past two years, the financial services industry has made nearly a half billion dollars in political campaign contributions. (That's just at the federal level.) So of course the banks feel they can get whatever they like from "the best Congress money can buy." They've paid for a whole lot of political influence. Now it's time for a little return on that investment.

But to expect Congress to conduct an honest investigation into what clobbered our economy is like expecting a crack addict to call the cops on the only dealer he can get credit with.

Nothing good will happen unless the people educate themselves, and then force government to do the right thing.


Unfortunately, unless the peasants are (literally) at the gates with their torches and pitchforks, I don't see any significant changes happening. We've all got too much tied up in the status quo to risk "rocking the boat" too much. Of course the guys with all of the money and power know this. We live in a system that feeds on itself. The guys with the power and money pay for influence in Washington, and the people in Washington then use their influence to funnel government money/contracts back to the real people in power. This is no secret, and the people of this country know how the system works. With the refusal of the big banks to accept the terms being imposed on them and the editorials like this: being posted about the current hardships of the privileged of our society, they only reinforce the fact that "they" just don't "get it." There is and always has been class warfare going on, often bubbling just below the surface. The only way to resolve our current issues is for everyone to show a little understanding and empathy towards one another and accept a relatively equal share of sacrifice (legislation) and blame and work together in order to move forward. I am greatly skeptical that any of this will happen... Goodnight and good luck.

The bread and circuses are not too good. I went looking for a particular Van Morrison CD tonight (a gift for someone who doesn't have an mp3 player). That one's gone my friends. Out of circulation. The digital divide is shutting out the arts from the masses. Two out of three of my digital boxes deliver only enough sound for you to hear if you're five ft away from the tube (3rd is still in box). And our taxes paid for $40 out of the $52 the things cost (2 out of 3 anyway). Still, however, the advertisers and PR firms must be working on keeping the schlock that still antithetical to learning as possible. To be sure, those who buy it are not learning anything about the world they live in...and perhaps they are being seeded with subliminal suggestions to the effect that such learning is too painful, boring, and difficult to bother with.

We have all waxed philosophical here on these threads about our demise. But, as time passes, it does look as though the philosophy's not as important as how we grasp the objective facts re the meltdown. And how we state them ourselves. The tone of tonight's show I thought conveyed that momentum especially. There has been a lot of interesting philosophy here, but despite all this, once in a while posters write who to me seem to suggest that an understanding of the numbers and instruments themselves is taking shape out there on a larger scale. [if the bankers themselves can't understand it, then we are approaching of course a religion] What's weird is that the incisiveness of Moyers' guests is so much in diametric opposition to "reports" from things like CNN news (carried by Buffalo station that airs Alan Colmes Show eg) and "analyses" from guys like David Brooks.

Man, it's a bear when ones internet gets the slows. Took me 20 min to not find Steven Lesh's Michael Hudson link. Finally I just stuck "Michael Hudson" in an advanced Altavista search.

The reformers need a visible and respected leader. With a leader they might create the momentum but they don't have it now. Obama could be that leader.

Robert Hunter: Itoo wish that things were different, that US families weren't so sentimental about spectacles and pointless consumption. As we are now global, I expect change to come from the oppressed and awakened majority in other countries, even Haiti and El Salvador, now that we are spent as a credible Super Oppressor. I get this from reading Dr. Paul Farmer, Partners in Health. I read Gangs of America online like you and agree it is a quick education on corporate history, and offers reasons for devolution of corporate personhood. Maybe our American demands should be bold but specific and incremental.

The libraries are full of books explaining how the country has been taken over by the money elites. Most quite readable, Gangs of America, a great read, a free PDF on line but like me the people reading them are too comfortable or to old to lead the fight. I believe nothing of good can come from the institutions, it can only come from "the street" & it's not bad enough yet to motivate "the people". I truly admire the French, they have the guts, WE are the real surrender monkeys or is it just the bread & circuses are too good?

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