Moyers Moments

“Moyers Moments” are short, curated video clips from both classic and new Moyers broadcasts that are so memorable and meaningful that they deserved to be called out, enjoyed, and easily shared.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka on The Real Economy

In this Moyers Moment from a 2010 episode of Bill Moyers Journal, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka says there are two economies in this country: a financial economy that passes around complex instruments to create capital, and a real economy that actually makes things. Once an enabler of the real economy, the financial economy now overshadows it, to the detriment of the American worker, says Trumka.

Watch the full conversation between Bill Moyers and Richard Trumka.

Maxine Hong Kingston Raises a War Widow’s Voice

In 1993, author Maxine Hong Kingston asked veterans and their families to turn their wartime experiences into poems, novels and essays. Some were collected in Kingston’s book, Veterans of War; Veterans of Peace. In this 2007  Moyers Moment from Bill Moyers Journal, we hear the first-person account of Pauline Laurent, who was pregnant when she was told her husband was killed in Vietnam. In the clip, Moyers and Kingston read from Laurent’s personal essay, but we also hear from Laurent herself.

Watch the full conversation between Bill Moyers and Maxine Hong Kingston.

Paul Volcker on Jamie Dimon

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon has been one of the most outspoken critics of the Volcker Rule, a section of the Dodd-Frank Act that aims to keep the banks in which you deposit your money from gambling it on their own sometimes-risky investments. Now Dimon has announced that risky trades have cost his company $2 billion in losses. In this April 22, 2012 Moyers Moment from Moyers & Company, Paul Volcker himself responds to Jamie Dimon’s complaints about the rule and its effects.

Watch the full conversation between Bill Moyers and Paul Volcker.

Olson and Boies Make the Case for Marriage Equality

Ted Olson and David Boies — two courtroom titans who’d battled each other all the way to the Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore — came together to challenge California’s Proposition 8, which ordered the state constitution to define marriage as the union between one man and one woman. They won their case at the district court level and today the Supreme Court upheld that lower court decision, which overturned the same-sex marriage ban.

In this 2010 Moyers Moment from Bill Moyers Journal, the lawyers explain the constitutional basis for their argument.

Watch the full conversation with Ted Olson and David Boies.

Heather McGhee on Student Debt

In this 2012 Moyers Moment from Moyers & Company, Heather McGhee, director of the Washington office of the research and advocacy organization Demos, talks about the crushing burden of student debt. She points out that while young people are paying as much as 18 percent interest on private student loans, “the banks they’re paying that interest to are getting, basically, a zero-interest loan from the government every day.”

BILL MOYERS: I read just the other day that only 29 percent of Americans have college degrees. Is college still a way up and out?

HEATHER McGHEE: It is. And you would think-- I mean, this is one of those great ironies. At the same time that we had the globalization, the transfer from the industrial age to the information age, and so the premium on higher education became so high. At the same time that we decided to reorder our economy so that those with information and with knowledge would be able to gallop ahead, we also made it less affordable and more difficult for people to get that new golden ticket to a middle class life. It doesn't make any sense. At around that same time, around when I was born, we shifted our federal support for higher education. It used to be the majority of it was grants, grants like the G.I. Bill that put my grandparents to college, grants like my parents had, to loans, which is what the majority of my generation is now taking on in order to basically pay government and the banks for the privilege of having a middle class life.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, what does it say that many of you have to pay Wall Street to go to college today?

HEATHER McGHEE: It's amazing, isn't it? And not only do we have to do that, but particularly with these private loans, which are just galloping, galloping away, in terms of how quickly they're becoming a share of the market, it's like 18 percent interest on some of these private loans. It's like putting your $10,000 tuition on a high-interest credit card. And if you think about that, if you think about the fact that the next generation has to pay an 18 percent interest rate to get a college education, whereas the very banks and financial companies that they're paying that interest to are getting basically a zero interest loan from the government every day, it's shocking.

BILL MOYERS: We have a video clip of a young man who's speaking at a rally objecting to tuition increases. Let's take a look at it.

PROTESTER: Me myself, I’m in debt $70,000 and when do I expect to be free of this? Possibly never. I actually got a letter from Sallie Mae, saying that if I don’t start paying today, $900 a month, they are going to have more aggressive attempts at collecting my debt […] And so I refuse to pay this student debt, for this ball and chain that will follow me the rest of my life. And so I’m going to burn this right here and now.

BILL MOYERS: How do you respond to that?

HEATHER McGHEE: Honestly, it really does breaks my heart, Bill. If you think about what young people are facing when they know that they have to play by the rules, go to college, get a good education. And yet, they know that the price of that is going to be tens of thousands of dollars of debt on the other end, what options are young people supposed to have? I really don't think that we can say as a country that we are a middle class nation, that we care about recreating a middle class for the future generation, and have an entire generation indebted. And have so much money diverted from more productive uses in the economy simply to pay off loans from a really flawed financial aid system.

BILL MOYERS: He quoted a letter from Sallie Mae. For the benefit of my audience, who's Sallie Mae?

HEATHER McGHEE: Sallie Mae, other than being one of the most profligate contributors to Washington and one of the biggest lobbies, is a massive financial company that is, their entire business model is on student loans, private and federally subsidized.

BILL MOYERS: As you know, the Obama Administration tried to do something to clean up that student loan business, and got a piece of legislation through that was promising. But then lobbyists from the industry, including many who belong to the Democratic Party swarmed all over it, and have, in effect, throttled it. What does that say to you?

HEATHER McGHEE: It says that the financial industry is an equal opportunity employer of Congress people, unfortunately. We've really seen an incredible explosion in the amount of financial contributions from the financial sector, including Sallie Mae, Wall Street banks, real estate, insurance over just the period of my lifetime. And the result has been that any time there are any kinds of steps forward, there's always a desire to sort of erode the progress.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, you're sympathetic to that young man and to all of them like him. But do you think refusing to pay is a solution?

HEATHER McGHEE: You know, I think the right solution would be for us to undo what Sallie Mae and other lenders got slipped into that terrible 2005 bankruptcy bill. Which is that private student loans and student loans are not dischargeable in bankruptcy. I mean, think about it, bankruptcy, which, you know, huge, multi-billion dollar corporations are-- seem to be filing every day and move on, just as if nothing happened. And yet, regular, middle class families, the average American family, the two most important loans in their life, the two most onerous loans in their life, for education and for their primary residence, they can't be relieved of in bankruptcy. Our bankruptcy code says to the American people, "You don't have any second chance when it comes to those two major primary loans." We're just making people give up so early on, because it's impossible to get out from under debt like that.

Watch the full conversation between Bill Moyers and Heather McGhee.

Eric Alterman on How Liberal President Obama Is

In this Moyers Moment from Moyers & Company, Bill Moyers asks Eric Alterman to rank President Obama as a liberal on a scale from 1-100. The answer — and which Republican former President scores higher — may surprise you.

BILL MOYERS: On a scale of one to 100, as a measure of where someone stands, where do you put Obama as a liberal?

ERIC ALTERMAN: With-- with 100 being who?

BILL MOYERS: Roosevelt.

ERIC ALTERMAN: I put him about about 30.


ERIC ALTERMAN: 35. Yeah. In today's society, I would put him at about 55-60.

BILL MOYERS: Why the difference?

ERIC ALTERMAN: Because as a society, we've moved incredibly further to the right, since Roosevelt's time. So that Richard Nixon is more liberal than -- personally, not, but as president -- he's more liberal than Barack Obama. All of the plans he put forth. He was more liberal than Bill Clinton. His health care plan was a better--

BILL MOYERS: Richard Nixon?

ERIC ALTERMAN: Yeah, oh, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: As president, right?

ERIC ALTERMAN: Yeah, yeah, Obama-- Obama is really quite similar to Dwight Eisenhower. Both in terms of the role of government and how government should be -- well, what it can accomplish. You know, this really interesting thing about-- that I hope I do justice to -- in this book, which is that when Obama became president and he passed the stimulus program, and people -- liberals -- were criticizing him, he said, "What are you talking about? This is the largest government intervention in the economy we've had since Eisenhower."

And then when he did the deal with -- the deficit deal -- just last year, he bragged that this was the smallest government involvement in the economy since Eisenhower. So he made exactly the opposite argument he made, that he thought he was getting elected to do.There's something about our society. And I don't think it's really the country. I think it's more our politics. I think our politics are much further to the right than the country is. And that's -- you know, that's an important fact. But there's something about our political system, dominated as it is by money and by corporations and by the elite media that beats down the liberalism in Democratic presidents.

Watch the entire conversation between Moyers and Alterman.

Elie Wiesel on Humanity, Violence and Retribution

In observance of International Human Rights Day we present this 1991 Moyers Moment from Facing Hate with Elie Wiesel. In it, Nobel Laureate and human rights advocate Elie Wiesel talks with Bill Moyers about his own childhood experiences at Auschwitz and addresses our capacity for humanity, inhumanity, violence and retribution.

MOYERS: How many members of your family perished in the camps?

WIESEL: Innumerable uncles and cousins and- every Jewish family in Eastern Europe really was the same.

MOYERS: You lost your mother and your father, your sister-

WIESEL: And my little sister and uncles and cousins and grandmother and grandfather and so many.

MOYERS: You said that Himmler and Mengele and the others didn't hate the Jews because- was it because they didn't see you as human or-

WIESEL: We were not human for them. We were what they called "subhumans," and you don't cry when a subhuman cries.

MOYERS: A beast, a mineral, an object.

WIESEL: Not even an animal, but an object. Because what they tried to do- you know, I believe, in general, they had a theory. They really wanted to create a universe parallel to our own. They wanted to reinvent creation. And in that universe, in that creation, a new language was invented, a new attitude towards human being, a new God. An S.S. man was God. We had no right to look at an S.S. man in the face, because you cannot look into God's face and remain alive. And therefore, in their concept of the universe, we were subhuman, unworthy of living. So what did they do? They shrank everything. Let's say, from the universe, we went to a country and a country to a town, from a town to a street, from a street to an apartment, apartment to a room, from the room to the cellar, from the cellar to the train. It's always smaller and smaller -- from the train to the gas chamber. And then the person, who was first a person, became a prisoner, and the prisoner became a number.

MOYERS: And the number became an ash.

WIESEL: Ash, and the ash itself was dispersed. When you think of what they tried to do us, they were relentless. They lost the war, and they still wanted to kill Jews and to annihilate Jewish memory.

MOYERS: Did you see them as human?

WIESEL: That is, of course, the question of all questions, that you asked in the very beginning. Is humanity good or is humanity evil? At the time, I didn't think in these terms. It's only much later, when I began thinking and searching and doing my own inquiries. I think that they wanted to dehumanize the victim and, in doing so, they dehumanized themselves. But at the beginning, they were human. Their own acts, their own projects dehumanized them.

MOYERS: I remember reading in one of your books about the Russian prisoners at Buchenwald who, when they were liberated, commandeered American jeeps, drove into the nearby German town and killed the civilians there for simply having lived outside beyond the barbed wire. The Jews didn't do that, apparently, and I've often wondered, did the Russians have the right idea? Did they reconcile more fully with death and the dead than those of you who, all these years, have been weighed down by your inability to reconcile what happened?

WIESEL: I don't have an answer to that. That was a very special day. It was the day of liberation, and the Russian prisoners of war suffered as much as we did, maybe because of their military training. What was my training? I was a student. I brought into the war, into the camps, a bag thick with books, as much as with anything else. More than food, I had books. So therefore, my point of reference was books -- words, ideas, memories -- not acts, not gestures. I cannot condemn them. I do not. Who am I to judge? But I remember that when liberation came, really, our first community, created immediately, was a community of prayer. We gathered, and we prayed, and we said Kaddish, the Prayer for the Dead. /

MOYERS: Do you ever find yourself wishing that perhaps -- or thinking that perhaps – it might have been better for you to have done what the Russian soldiers did?

WIESEL: I never felt any attraction towards violence. I never tried to express myself through violence. Violence is a language. When language fails, violence becomes a language; I never had that feeling. Language failed me very often, but then, the substitute for me was silence, but not violence.

Watch the full conversation between Bill Moyers and Elie Wiesel.

Douglas Blackmon on The Slaves Who Paved Atlanta

For decades after the Emancipation Proclamation, under laws enacted specifically to intimidate blacks, tens of thousands of African Americans were arbitrarily arrested, hit with outrageous fines, and charged for the costs of their own arrests. With no means to pay these ostensible “debts,” prisoners were sold as forced laborers to coal mines, brickyards, railroads, farm plantations, and other workplaces.

In this 2008 “Moyers Moment” from Bill Moyers Journal, Douglas Blackmon, author of Slavery By Another Name, tells the story of the “neo-slaves” who made the bricks that pave the streets of downtown Atlanta to this day.

Watch the full conversation between Bill Moyers and Douglas Blackmon.

Maya Angelou on The Black Side of the Tracks

In this “Moyers Moment” from the 1982 series Creativity, the esteemed poet Maya Angelou travels with Bill Moyers to her childhood town of Stamps, Arkansas, where she experienced the brutality of racial discrimination, but was also fortified by the values of the traditional African-American family, community, and culture.

The full video can be purchase for educational purposes through Films Media Group. For more information, contact the production company, IPF Media.

Michelle Alexander on The New Jim Crow

Many of the forms of discrimination we considered left behind in the Jim Crow Era are legal again once you’ve been branded a criminal, says Michelle Alexander, author of The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration In The Age Of Colorblindness. These include being denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, and access to public education– all public benefits.

In this 2010 “Moyers Moment” from Bill Moyers Journal, Alexander talks about the “system of laws, policies, and practices in the United States today that operate to lock people of color, particularly poor people of color, living in ghetto communities, in an inferior second-class status for life.”

Alexander currently holds a joint appointment with Ohio State’s Moritz College of Law and the Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity where she teaches courses regarding race, civil rights and criminal justice.

Watch the entire conversation between Bill Moyers, Michelle Alexander and civil rights advocate Bryan Stevenson.

Former Citigroup Chairman John Reed on the Volcker Rule

There’s no clearer example of the collusion between government and corporate finance than the Citicorp-Travelers merger. The deal was a violation of the Glass-Steagall Act which separated banks from investment firms, but was approved by the Fed with a wink and a nod. A year later, Glass-Steagall was repealed. John Reed was at the helm of Citicorp at the time of the merger, and served as co-chairman of the newly-formed Citigroup from its creation in 1998 until his retirement in 2000. Ten years later — after the repeal of Glass-Steagall was widely cited as a cause of the biggest financial collapse since the great depression  – Reed apologized for his role in the crisis and said that the repeal of Glass-Steagall was a mistake.

In this March 2012 Moyers Moment from Moyers & Company, Reed talks about his support for the Volcker Rule, a provision of Dodd-Frank that restricts banks from certain kinds of speculative trading, and shares a thoughtful metaphor to explain why the banking industry needs rules.

Watch the entire conversation between Bill Moyers and John Reed.

Dr. Margaret Flowers on Our Broken Health Care System

Dr. Margaret Flowers believes so strongly in the need for a single-payer health care plan — “Medicare for all” — that she’s been arrested several times fighting for it. In this clip from her February 2010 Bill Moyers Journal interview, Dr. Flowers talks about the insurance industry’s imposition on her pediatric practice and how she became such a passionate advocate for reform.

Watch the entire conversation between Bill Moyers and Dr. Margaret Flowers.

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