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BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company… American labor in crisis.

STEPHEN LERNER: I joke that the labor movement's in the sweet spot of despair. Just strong enough to be a bit afraid to lose and not strong enough to really win anything right now.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Most of the leaders of the movement, unfortunately at this point, remain fearful of shaking the table.

BILL MOYERS: And perfidious and passionate poetry from Philip Appleman.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Money buys prophets and teachers, poems and art, So listen, if you're so rich, why aren't you smart?

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. In all the hullabaloo over the Supreme Court's decision on health care, another of its rulings quickly fell off the public radar. Before deciding the fate of the Affordable Care Act, the Court announced it would not reconsider Citizens United. That's the odious 5-4 decision two years ago that opened our elections to unlimited contributions. Within minutes of that announcement, right-wing partisans were crowing about the advantage they now own. An advantage not due to ideas or personalities, but to the sheer force of money. They were remarkably candid and specific.

Here’s what Fred Barnes wrote in "The Weekly Standard" about the Senate race in Missouri:

"For three weeks in May, Republican super-PACs took turns attacking Democratic senator Claire McCaskill in TV ads. Republicans hadn’t held their primary—it’s not until August 7—but McCaskill wound up trailing all three of the GOP candidates in polls. Now McCaskill, unnerved, is struggling to recover.

"That’s what super-PACs can do. When they emerged in 2010 and worked in tandem, they were a critical force in the Republican landslide in the congressional elections. This year they’re playing an even bigger role. The size and reach of their efforts dwarf what they did two years ago."

Attaboy, Fred, for telling it like it is. For exposing the hoax that the Court’s original decision was about “free” speech. Free speech, my foot: It’s about carpet bombing elections with all the tonnage your rich paymasters want to buy. Try not to laugh when you hear one of its perpetrators, the noted lawyer Floyd Abrams, say, as he did not too long ago, “I don’t think we should want as a matter of policy to make decisions which are essentially, people can’t do all the speaking that they can in a political campaign. I don’t think we can ration speech.”

Excuse me, Floyd: Speech is already rationed in America. On your playing field, those who have no money have no speech. And just who do you think is doing this “speaking”? Hello, poor people, are you there? It’s your election, too. All 50 million of you; Hello, we can’t hear you. Better get a Super Pac and speak up!

Poor people haven’t lost their voice. They can’t afford a voice. And every day working people: universal laryngitis, the chronic absence of money. As for children – children who have a big stake in our elections but no vote – for them to be heard they would need piggy banks the size of Wal-Mart heirs. Or the Koch brothers for uncles.

And if “free speech” is a right, why all the secrecy? Why hide from voters where the money is coming from? Why not openly say you’re downright proud to be exercising your First Amendment rights and that writing checks is your patriotic duty? Instead, conservatives across the country are fighting to keep their sugar daddies secret. According to their guardian angel in Congress – the highly leveraged Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – the right wing opposes disclosure laws because the super-rich just might be bullied and harassed by the rest of us who want to know who’s buying our elections. So that the editorial page of "The Wall Street Journal," asks us to have pity on billionaires and those little ol’ corporations and their CEOs who just might have their tender feelings hurt; if they were exposed to boycotts and pickets – were it known which candidates they were buying.

Wait a minute. Weren’t we taught the First Amendment also guarantees the right of every citizen to assemble and petition, even to boycott and picket? That’s what a couple of hundred protesters were doing just the other day. They marched to the DC offices of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS. Those are the right wing money mills run by the mastermind of much of this massive fundraising, Karl Rove. He’s making a bundle himself buying and selling “Free Speech,” while at the same time deploring the disclosure of big donors’ names as “shameful” intimidation!

Exercising their First Amendment rights, the demonstrators taped a kind of wanted poster on Rove’s office door, indicating they would like to see him wearing an orange prison jumpsuit. Instead, he could be seen last weekend in casual wear, buzzing around in a golf cart at Mitt Romney’s Utah mountain gathering of high rollers. No doubt plotting how to raise more millions to pay for more “free speech.”

Let’s see if we’ve got this right: On the one hand, conservatives declare that corporations and the superrich can spend all they want on exercising their First Amendment rights, but on the other, they demand to keep it secret so the rest of us can’t exercise our First Amendment rights to fight back? Have you ever heard of more cowardly lions?

It’s one big joke. Big enough to make you cry. Three things don’t go together: Money. Secrecy. Democracy. And that’s the nub of the matter. This is all a sham for invalidating democracy in the name of democracy. It’s the trick authoritarians always use to hide their real intention -- in this case absolute power over our public life and institutions: the privatization of everything. The Supreme Court is pointing the way. Instead of mitigating the worst excesses of both the state and the private sector, the Court has taken sides. Saying to the massed wealth of the one percent: America is yours for the taking, for the buying.

That’s what George III thought, too. Which brings us back to our celebration of the 4th of July, to the Declaration of Independence and Thomas Jefferson, who seems to have thought that a little uprising now and then would be good for what ails us. This time the overweening power is not the monarchy but plutocracy, the convergence of the political, religious and corporate right that would keep us in the dark about where all that money is coming from, and who it’s buying, until one day we wake up and our country is no longer our own. Fortunately, those orange jump suits come in one size fits all. So remember, moneyed lords and ladies, what King George learned the hard way – you can only push your subjects so far.

The Supreme Court’s doubling down on Citizens United wasn’t the only decision this session that seemed designed to strengthen the grip of corporate America and the superrich. Another one – Knox versus SEIU Local 1000 – the Service Employees International Union – would diminish the financial power of organized labor by restricting union dues used for political action. The Knox decision is just the latest attack in the ongoing battle against labor. And like the fight in Wisconsin and other states, it focuses on public sector unions – in part because they’re the greatest remaining bastion of labor’s power.

The strength of organized labor was once a muscular way for working people to push back against plutocracy. In union there is strength -- that was the old saying and it was true. But the percentage of union members in the American workforce has declined in the last sixty years from 35 to 12 percent, and labor has faced a pounding series of setbacks of which the Supreme Court’s Knox decision is just the latest. And yet, with corporations continuing to put the squeeze on employees, with joblessness and inequality rampant, now would seem the perfect time for people to turn back to unions to fight for them against the monied interests. Why haven’t they?

Stephen Lerner has spent more than three decades as a labor and community organizer, and as architect of the Justice for Janitors campaign. He was director of SEIU’s Private Equity project – which worked to expose the Wall Street feeding frenzy that would end in catastrophe especially for the working class. Bill Fletcher Jr. graduated from Harvard and went to work as a shipyard welder, along the way becoming a labor activist fighting for racial justice and union democracy. He has worked with SEIU and the United Auto Workers, among others. He’s the author of this upcoming book. “They’re Bankrupting Us – And Twenty Other Myths about Unions.”

Welcome to both of you.

STEPHEN LERNER: Thank you.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: Corporate profits are at an all-time high. Wages as a percent of the economy are at an all time low and fewer people are employed than anytime in the past 30 years. Why isn't this the opportunity for an old fashioned, good old fight for the working people?

STEPHEN LERNER: The question is less is it the right moment to organize, but what are the ways we organize and what are the things that we have to start doing that really let us take on corporate power.

BILL MOYERS: Such as?

STEPHEN LERNER: Massive, non-violent civil disobedience. The labor movement was built when it occupied factories which weren’t, wasn't legal either. That we need to look at a set of tactics and be willing to take risks and things that we haven't done in years because when somebody wants to destroy you, giant corporations, they pass laws to make it illegal for you to exercise your democratic rights. Then we need to look at movements of the past and other countries. And what they've done again and again is that we're willing to go to jail. We're willing to take tremendous risks to win our country.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: The difficulty in developing and moving in the direction that Stephen is suggesting is that the leaders themselves have to begin by recognizing that this is not 1970. That, that there's no going back to what we once had.

BILL MOYERS: You're talkin' about the leaders of unions?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Leaders of unions.

BILL MOYERS: And you're saying they don't recognize it?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: They don't. They continue, they are fearful, Bill, of fundamentally becoming organizations that are viewed as disreputable. They're very worried about being in a situation where they're no longer invited to the White House dinners. And what we have to understand is that unions did not get started based on White House dinners. They got started based on exactly what Stephen is suggesting. That you have to be ready to throw the dice. And most of the leaders of the movement, unfortunately at this point, remain fearful of shaking the table. We need battle stations. A new level of vitality, a new level of tactics, new strategies, new forms of organization that we have not previously used. That's where we are.

STEPHEN LERNER: I think many of us at least have spent our life sort of waiting for the great leader to come and, you know, come and save us. And I actually am not waiting. I don't think that there's going to be somebody in Washington that's going to emerge and do that. I think instead we have to look at where are the battles that we can have that we can both win but also become symbolic and exciting that inspire and move people. Because the labor movement's suffering very a version of the Stockholm Syndrome. That we've been held captive by capital for so long, we're so used to losing, that we almost identify with our oppressor. And that part of what has to happen here is brilliant strategies and tactics, but there's another piece which is that we just have to be willing to say slowly dying is worse than having a really big fight and trying to win.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Let's use this Wisconsin example. Labor has spent very little time focusing on educating its own membership. Thirty-eight percent the families of union members voted for Walker as opposed to voting for the recall. People look at their self interests in very different ways and it's up to the unions to really create a framework where there's a dialogue. Not simply telling people what to believe, but really a dialogue about what's happening with working people in the United States. There are 16 million union members.

BILL MOYERS: Private and public?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Private and public. The organized labor needs to look to educate those 16 million people, because it's not simply about building alliances between the leaders of different unions and various community organizations or social movements. It's that the members of the unions have to feel themselves that they're part of something larger. People have to have that bigger picture. Unions can do that. They should be doing it now. But that necessitates putting resources that many leaders feel could best go elsewhere.

STEPHEN LERNER: It's too easy to blame the bad guys. That sort of corporations try to destroy unions 'cause that's what they do. Is that the labor movement, really for 30 years, 40 years, has, with, you know, with some exceptions of great work, not been focused on organizing private sector workers. It's not been focused. And I think workers are much more likely to organize if they think the consequence of organizing is life gets better than you get your brains blown out, which is really, when I knock on a door and say, "Do you want to join the union?" what most workers are thinking, "Oh, do I want to lose my job?" And so I think part of, we have this funny moment where we have to both inspire people to take a risk 'cause there's a vision grand enough to fight for, but also people have to think there's some hope of winning and that's not what we've offered—

BILL MOYERS: But there was a lot of hope of winning in Wisconsin and workers and their families did exactly what you are recommending. They got out in the streets. They had strikes. They had protests. They prolonged their demonstrations. And still you lost.

STEPHEN LERNER: Well, you know, what I would raise as a question is whether the primary field where we're going to change the country is through elections. And that that may not be the place. That may be, that's where, you know, one of the things a good organizer does is try to figure out is where can we maximize our power and how do we play in the field where we're most successful. And it's important we win the presidency and important we do politics, but thinking we're going to vote our way out of this mess when we have a declining base I think is a mistake.

BILL MOYERS: President Obama stayed on the sidelines in Wisconsin as he has in so many of these labor fights of the last three years. Do you feel betrayed by Obama?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Not at all. First of all, I think that it was correct for Obama not to go into Wisconsin because he would have become the issue. But the deeper question is I don't feel betrayed by Obama. I feel disappointed in Obama. But I think that if anyone has looked at who he was in 2008 they would have understood, this is a corporate liberal.

BILL MOYERS: What do you mean by that?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: He is someone who sees his relationship with Wall Street, with the major corporations, that's the critical alliance for Obama. He was, he saw himself as preserving capitalism and he saw himself not as a champion of working people. He saw himself, he gave wonderful speeches to working people, but he does not see himself as the person who was saying, "We're going to take on the economic royalists."

STEPHEN LERNER: I think in 2008 the labor movement failed because we thought one human being was going to fix everything and we went into neutral. And, I think the real moment of lost opportunity was when the economic crisis hit. That unions and other progressives were waiting for somebody to fix it versus being in the street and really challenging the power of Wall Street. There was a moment where the entire country was questioning.

BILL MOYERS: Trade unions keep giving money to the Democrats because they, you think they'll come to your rescue and they don't. I mean why do, why does labor keep depending on a party that is always hanging it out to dry?

STEPHEN LERNER: I think the things that unions, and it's not just unions, but progressives need to think about, is who really has the country in a mess? And I think we've been very nervous about really, with red-hot anger, naming who the bad guys are and then talking about it in terms that resonate with people. Not abstractions about trillions of dollars. But talking about this teeny group of people at the top that are pillaging the country. And I think when we start to focus that and then have ways that people can act that's not just about rhetoric. I'll give you a specific example.

In California there is a program to pass a series of laws that defend homeowners and protect them from their homes being foreclosed on illegally, protect, if a bank forecloses on a home they now get fined $1,000 a day every day if they don't maintain the home. There's a whole set of legislation that's been passed.

Many of the people who should support it haven't supported it. Right? And so the way we've gone about getting them to support it is not to say we would or wouldn't support them, but we actually took people that were facing foreclose and took them to the lawn of some of those politics and did ads saying, "Here's Mary Smith. She faces foreclosure. This is her state representative and he won't, he won't do, support the law that would save her home.” It's those kinds of things that are pressuring politicians to do something that really matter. That are about workers saying, "We want to start getting our money back from Wall Street."

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: I think that the two party system is so undemocratic that it makes it very difficult for a third party to emerge. But labor needs to be thinking in those terms. We need to be creating worker candidates who are running. People that are representing the interests of economic justice, not simply funding someone who's going to kick our rear end the least.

STEPHEN LERNER: We feel like we've been screaming to the public for years, "You destroyed unions, you're going to destroy democracy," and folks didn't hear it. So I've sort of moved beyond, you know, the panic that labor movement's in trouble and start, you know, saying, "What is it that we actually do that doesn't make us dependent on, you know, liberals who don't really support unions who might be good on social issues?" And what are the kinds of things that let us start to build a movement that workers want to be part of and that can really challenge the power of capital.

I think the problem has been, is that people know they're weak and they're terrified of getting wiped off the face of the Earth. And so—

BILL MOYERS: Why are they weak?

STEPHEN LERNER: They're weak because we've been under a corporate assault for years going back to the '50s. I think the question that I wonder about is there are moments where we've won. You know, in my own life, in the Justice for Janitors campaign, hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers stood up to the real estate industry. There's right now, a strike in Louisiana of guest workers that work at a crawfish factory that's a supplier to Wal-Mart.

And I think we need to look at these moments where people are taking action and say, "How do we magnify those and what are, what are the seeds of a movement that we can learn from in there?" Because I think if we can spend all our time that we keep talking about why we're weak or why somebody did something that wasn't strong enough, we need to figure out what are the things that we can do.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: But I would say we're weak because in the late 1940s in the face of the Cold War organized labor ceased being a social movement. It gave up being the champion of economic justice and took on more of the form of a trade association. And so in that it lost the moral standing that it held with millions and millions of people. There was a point when people would say, even if they weren't in the union, "I'm not going to cross that picket line. I'm with the union."

Their issues are correct. Over the years as unions stepped further and further away from being the real champions of economic justice and I'm not just talking about a good speech. I mean real champions of economic justice, real allies of community groups that are fighting for them. When we stepped away from that of course we were going to become weaker. We were going to become more isolated. And we'd be looked at as special interests.

BILL MOYERS: Why the resentment among so many working and middle class people who've been exploited themselves? Why are voters not standing up?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Because it's it is easier for regular working people to start blaming someone that they can physically identify, someone that is not very strong, someone that cannot penalize them, rather than actually taking on the real powers. They're focusing on other weak, and I'm using the term broadly, weak sections of the population rather than focusing their attention on who really, who holds the power.

STEPHEN LERNER: But the thing on this that I think is really important is none of what's happening now is a surprise. For 30 years many people have said again and again and that if the private sector isn't organized and private sector workers lose pension plans and private sector workers lose their healthcare that they'll then be convinced they shouldn't fund it for other workers. In going forward there is no way out of this mess unless we organize millions of private sector workers. You will not have a public sector labor movement that survives if private sector workers are, have been impoverished in the country.

BILL MOYERS: And private sector are now how much, what percentage of the workforce?

STEPHEN LERNER: Only 6.9 percent of private sector workers are now in unions. It is now lower than it was at the start of the Great Depression. What the right wing has managed to do is get workers who have been crushed angry at somebody else. You know, their neighbor her, their neighbor who has a little bit better, than against Jamie Dimon. And we shouldn't be afraid to name names. Or the guys who are the cause of--

BILL MOYERS: Which raises the question why conservatives have been more successful than progressives in appealing to populist anger and populist aspirations?

STEPHEN LERNER: We don't connect with people 'cause we're not saying who the bad guys are. And the second part is if we're in bed with and afraid to take on the people who have caused the crisis in this country, then why would people rally behind us?

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: But there's another issue, Bill, which is that the right wing has a story. And they have a story, particularly right wing populists have a story that is very compelling, particularly to white people. A story that's intertwined with the myth of the American dream. And they use that story as a way of focusing on scapegoats. Of moving people away from real issues of power. Of playing upon people's resentments. And what we on the left side of the aisle often do is throw facts at people. You know, we'll say to people there's this vast polarization of wealth. Well, that's true. But people can draw different conclusions about that, including that maybe if they play the right number they too can be on the upside of that.

We have to have a story that puts these pieces together. That explains to people how does Wall Street operate. What does this mean when we're talking about changing taxes? What is this issue of power? Who is to blame?

BILL MOYERS: But why haven't you done that? I mean—

STEPHEN LERNER: Totally. Well, here's the—

BILL MOYERS: We've been through the biggest economic collapse since the 1930s. And yet four years later the capitalist class that brought it on is riding high in politics. It's far more influential than labor is.

STEPHEN LERNER: But this is why I think we need to look at some of the good things that are happening. When we did the demonstrations at the shareholder meetings of Bank of America and Wells Fargo, we did a version of what Bill just described, which is we talked about housing, we talked about how they treated workers, we talked about their role in funding private prisons and we talked about their role in destroying the environment and we talked about money in politics. And all the groups who normally don't work together came together. And in the case of Wells Fargo, lots of people are arrested, both inside and outside the meeting we sat in. And we took all those issues and said, "You know what? It all stems, the story, from the same problem which is the power of giant banks." And so when we were in Charlotte, North Carolina, the city invoked an emergency order and said, it suspended civil liberties in downtown Charlotte for this march. But we built enough pressure that we backed them off and we sat down and took over downtown Charlotte for two hours.

But the thing I'm trying to pull out of this is issues that are normally separate and siloed, became the same issue. It's how to giant banks hurt the environment. How do they hurt workers. How do they hurt communities. How do they hurt immigrants. And in looking at that you can imagine the kind of movement we need to build. That's not separate movements. One movement to focus on who these guys are.

BILL MOYERS: I can understand and appreciate the victories that you win here and there. But there's another side of the ledger too. And I looked at the details of those votes in San Diego and San Jose where voters who went for Barack Obama in 2008 voted by large margins to cut the pensions of public employees. The folks you care about.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: I'm not surprised when people vote to cut pensions because what they look at is that they say, it's like crabs in the barrel. "These folks have something I do not have." And almost no one is saying to them, "Yes, that's true, but you lost it because of what happened and we need to fight to get it back."

STEPHEN LERNER: So let me give a specific example of what public employee unions could do that would make a different. What I'd love to see, which I think could actually demonstrate leadership, and the Chicago Teachers' Union actually did this. They said that they would take a wage freeze if the mayor would move his money out of all the banks that are continuing to foreclose on people in Chicago.

I think one of the things that we could do that would really make a difference. Is we need to turn collective bargaining into a vehicle not just for the narrow group of people who are bargaining, into a battle for the common good. So if public employee unions said, "We're willing to strike to force the city or the state to renegotiate debt with Wall Street," then I think people would rally behind them and say, "Oh, that's where the money went. It went to Wall Street. It's not goin' to those workers."

BILL MOYERS: Twenty California counties allow some public workers to make more in retirement than they did while working. And then there's one county executive retired at 62 so she could bring down a pension of $272,000 a year for life. In a county whose public pension system is underfinanced by 3/4 of a billion dollars. Now, against that minute particular, a telling story repeated over and again in an election, you're trying to say there's another story that will mitigate that example?

STEPHEN LERNER: Well, I tell you a funny piece of it is one of our weaknesses is that we're not, that we're afraid to sometimes just to say, "Yeah, that's wrong." And here are things—

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Yeah, exactly.

STEPHEN LERNER: --and we have this knee jerk defense. Of course it's absurd.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: People will respond to the story the you just told, because, again, it relates to something I was saying before, that it's easier to blame that public sector worker who is gaming the system than to go after the people in Wall Street who have walked away with billions. It's much easier.

BILL MOYERS: But Bill, with all due respect, the voters in San Diego, and San Jose see the particularities of this particular county—

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: But--

BILL MOYERS: --executive more clearly than they do Jamie Dimon's situation.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: We have to provide some answers, better answers than we're giving. I don't mean just in simply explanations, but what people can do about the morass that they find themselves in. In addition to saying, "Yeah, this is a problem," we've got to say, "This is how we would--"

STEPHEN LERNER: So let me give a very specific example. There's 16 million homes, which is really 30 million people are underwater. Their homes are worth less than they paid for them. They're overlaid with all the key battleground states. So we've launched a thing called The Home Defender's League—

BILL MOYERS: We being?

STEPHEN LERNER: We being a bunch of different community groups and unions. We've, in the last couple weeks, called half a million people. We're having meetings around the country. We have a very simple demand. Every mortgage should be reset to current market value.

That would put $700 billion in the economy, create a million jobs, save the average homeowner $5,000 a year and it would extract the money from Wall Street who stole it from them in the first place. Very concrete. An answer. Good math. Economist supported. And we have a chance to win that.

BILL MOYERS: What’s the website?

STEPHEN LERNER You go to homedefendersleague.org.

BILL MOYERS: Many of the people who are in their homes are not losing them. They're property owners. They're paying taxes. And they're fed up with what they perceive to be the heavy burden imposed on them by public employees.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: And the person that you're describing that's paying those taxes and is feeling squeezed, we need to begin with the fact, you are being squeezed. There is a squeeze. It's not your imagination. So the question is then where is the money? Is the money to be found in crushing public sector workers or is the money to be found in reversing a practice over the last 50 years of decreasing taxes on corporations and on the wealthy?

Because the problem is that what's happened as the tax burden on the wealthy has shrunk, of course the people in the middle are bearing more and more of that. And they're resentful. And they should be.

STEPHEN LERNER The majority of those people, as mad as they may be at a public employee, know when in every poll, every discussion, the systems imbalanced, the people at the top are sucking up all the wealth. Financial capitalism is failing as a model in this country and in Europe. And I think as they start, if we survive this period and if we go on offense and let me just be clear. Offense is not defense yelling louder. Offense—

BILL MOYERS: So what is offense? What's your strategy? What do you want people to do who believe in what you've just said?

STEPHEN LERNER: So I would say, one, we should take the fight on underwater homeowners and foreclose that's already stopping, where people are occupying homes around the country. A wonderful way to connect with regular people in the fight against banks that's happening all over the country. There's a woman in Arizona, Lily Washington. Bank of America foreclosed on her while she was visiting her son who had been shot in Afghanistan and threw away her purple heart. A wonderful moment when they foreclosed when veterans, not radicals, regular veterans delivered a purple heart to her house saying, "We are with you in your battle against Bank of America." We need to look at the places where we can have battles we can win that put people in motion, that name Wall Street, that start winning victories. I'm worried less about Washington and much more worried about what happens to communities all over this country and how we start to fight back and win in those. And that's the kind of thing that builds the excitement and the energy to take on the bigger fight about how the system's been co-opted.

BILL MOYERS: Stephen Lerner, Bill Fletcher, thank you for joining us.

BILL FLETCHER, JR.: Thank you very much.

BILL MOYERS: Faithful viewers of this broadcast know that from time to time we ask poets to drop by and share their work with us. This time, our guest is the versatile Philip Appleman, whose creativity spans a long life filled with verse, fiction, philosophy, science, religion, and above all, moments of every day experience captured like the glint of the sun sparkling through a crystal glass. Just take a look at a sample of his legacy: Darwin, Apes and Angeles, Darwin’s Ark, In the Twelfth Year of the War, Open Doorways, and this, my favorite: Summer Love and Surf, about the joys and wonders of loving and living. His latest book of poems is Perfidious Proverbs.

A fellow poet said that to watch Philip Appleman “sling words is to be richly regaled.” I quite agree.

Welcome Philip.

PHILIP APPLEMAN : Wonderful to be here, Bill.

BILL MOYERS: I have long thought of poetry as music to be heard best in the voice of the composer. So let's go right to some of your poems.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Good. I love it.

BILL MOYERS: Here's one of my favorites. And I think it's one of your favorites, too, “Eve.” Tell me about that poem.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Twenty years ago, I published a book called Let There Be Light. It was a series of satires on various Biblical stories. And Eve being one of the first came out at the head of the list. And, shall I read it?

BILL MOYERS: Please.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Eve is kind of reflecting on the snake, at first.

Clever he was, so slick he could weave words into sunshine. When he murmured another refrain of that shimmering promise, “You shall be as gods,” something with wings whispered back in my heart, and I crunched the apple—a taste so good I just had to share it with Adam. And all of a sudden we were naked. Oh yes, we were nude before, but now, grabbing for fig leaves, we knew that we knew too much, just as the slippery serpent said—so we crouched all day under the rhododendrons, trembling at something bleak and windswept in our bellies that soon we'd learned to call by its right name: fear.

God was furious with the snake and hacked off his legs, on the spot. And for us it was thorns and thistles, sweat of the brow, dust to dust returning. In that sizzling skyful of spite whirled the whole black storm of the future: the flint knife in Abel's heart, the incest that swelled us into a tribe, a nation, and brought us all like driven lambs, straight to His flood. I blamed it on human nature, even then, when there were only two humans around, and if human nature was a mistake, whose mistake was it? I didn't ask to be cursed with curiosity. I only wanted the apple, and of course, that promise—to be like gods. Maybe we are like gods. Maybe we're all exactly like gods. And maybe that's our really original sin.

BILL MOYERS: The original sin. Hubris, right?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Yes.

BILL MOYERS: You've said that's one of your favorites. What makes it a favorite?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: I like the personal tone of Eve, who, you know, doesn’t get to say anything in the Bible, to speak of. And to turn her into a kind of down to earth reinterpretor of that kind of tickles me, that's all.

BILL MOYERS: She finally gets to tell her own story.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Right.

BILL MOYERS: Did you ever wonder about the silence in that story of the first woman, as it says?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Yeah. No woman I know would tolerate it.

BILL MOYERS: Exactly. Here's one that we like, especially. It's one of the five poems of pagans that you did. And this is one of the short ones. Would you read that one? And by the way, tell us what Mammon is, for those who haven't been reading the Bible lately.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Well, Mammon is the love of money and greed and he’s the god of wealth. I call it my Bernie Madoff poem.

BILL MOYERS: Read on.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: O Mammon, Thou who art daily dissed by everyone, yet boast more true disciples than all other gods together, Thou whose eerie sheen gleameth from Corporate Headquarters and Vatican Treasury alike, Thou whose glittering eye impales us in the x-ray vision of plastic surgeons, the golden leer of televangelists, the star-spangled gloat of politicos-- O, Mammom, come down to us in the form of Treasuries, Annuities, & High-Grade Bonds, yield unto us those Benedict Arnold Funds, those Quicksand Convertible Securities, even the wet Judas Kiss of Futures Contracts—for unto the least of these Thy supplicants art Thou welcome in all thy many forms. But when Thou comest to say we’re finally in the gentry-- use the service entry.

BILL MOYERS: Do you ever go back and say, "Oh, that's one of my first children. I mean, I remember-- I've forgotten that kid, but now I realize that it is my poem."

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Yeah, I love reading the early poems as much as the late ones. I brought along a poem which it would be an interruption, sort of, of the thrust here. But--

BILL MOYERS: That's what life is about, a series of constant interruptions, Philip, go ahead.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: The first thing you see in this book is a dedication that's for Margie, who happens to be my wife. We're looking forward to our 62nd anniversary this summer. And the dedication says, "Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight." But because Margie is home and has had a stroke and is ill, I would like to read a poem for her, if you don't mind.

BILL MOYERS: Please do.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: It's from a book called “Summer Love and Surf,” which came out in 1968. And it's the most beautiful book. It's so beautifully designed that it won the—

BILL MOYERS: Oh it is.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: --design contest for that year. And was written when we were living out in Malibu, in one of those houses that are built on stilts. And it's so far on the beach that at high tide, the ocean is gurgling under your bedroom. And we love it there. And this is a young love poem. And in recent years, I've written poems for our 50th anniversary and our 60th anniversary, which are very old love poems. But this is sort of back at the beginning.

“Summer Love and Surf”

Morning was hesitating when you swam at me through wave on wave of sheet and blanket, glowing like some dimly sighted flora at the bottom of the sea. Around your filmy hair, light was seeping in with water sounds, low growling in the distance, like dragons chained.

After our small storm dwindled, we faced the rage outside, swells humping up and charging in to curl and pause and dash themselves to soapsuds on the stork-legged pilings of our house. The roar was hoarser now, The wrecks of kelp were heaping food for flies, our long-nosed sand birds staying close to dry land; farther out, pelicans arched their wings in quick surprise and gulls scream urgently. The call was there: we fought the breakers out and rode their fury back, triumphant and again triumphant, till at last, ears stuffed with brine and heads a-spin like aging boxers battered, we flopped face down on hot sand, smelling sun and salt and steaming skin. Your eyes were suddenly all sleep and love, there in the sun, with sea birds calling.

The sky goes metal at the end, water, gray and hostile, lashing out between the day and night. Plastic swans are threatened; deck chairs, yellow towels, barbecues stand naked to the peril, as if it were winter come by stealth. Still later, in the lee of dark and warmth, we probe the ancient fear: at night the sea is safer under glass, the crude, wild thing half tamed to shed its past— galleons sent to fifty fathoms, mountains hacked to rubble, cities stripped. At night, the sea, barbaric bellows stifled, sprawls outside the window, framed like a dark, unruly landscape. Behind us is a darker kind of dark: I watch your eyes for signals.

The music makes a pause for prophecy: “Tomorrow, off-shore breezes and…” Warmth to each other's warmth, we do not listen.

BILL MOYERS: That was how long ago?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: 1968.

BILL MOYERS: You had been married--

PHILIP APPLEMAN: We had been married 18 years, at that point.

BILL MOYERS: How does love change from then to now?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: It's more profound and more essential. It was very strong right from the beginning. We met on the first day of French class at Northwestern University in 1946. And we've been together ever since.

BILL MOYERS: She became a playwright, didn't she?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: She was a playwright. And her plays have been produced about 60 times in mostly New York and Los Angeles.

And I appreciate her work on my poetry and other things I write. She is a wonderful critic. Four years ago, she had a stroke. And that kind of put an end to her writing. So that was a very sad thrust.

BILL MOYERS: I’m curious as to this poem, “This Year's Valentine.” Where did that come from? What's it about?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: I wrote this right after the Twin Towers went down. This was a poem I wrote for the next Valentine's Day.

They could pump frenzy into air ducts and rage into reservoirs, dynamite dams and drown the cities, cry fire in theaters as the victims are burning, but I will find my way through blackened streets and kneel down at your side. They could jump a median, head-on, and obliterate the future, fit .45's to the hands of kids and skate them off to school, flip live butts into tinderbox forests and hellfire half the heavens, but in the rubble of smoking cottages I will hold you in my arms.

They could send kidnappers to kindergartens and pedophiles to playgrounds, wrap themselves in Old Glory and gut the Bill of Rights, pound at the door with holy screed and put an end to reason, but I will cut through their curtains of cunning and find you somewhere in moonlight.

Whatever they do with their anthrax or chainsaws, however they strip-search or brainwash or blackmail, they cannot prevent me from sending you robins, all of them singing: I'll be there.

BILL MOYERS: A year after 9/11 in that huge climate of fear, how could you have such faith in love?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: It's always been there for me. And it keeps me consciously aware that I'm not alone on this earth yet. We're up in our eighties now, so there'll be a time in sometime soon when I will be alone. But while I'm here the thing that I most value is that, love.

BILL MOYERS: Is that the source of the meaning in your life? I mean, you have this remarkable essay, that had a profound impact on me a few years ago, on how the meaning of life comes out of the moment you're acting, out of your choices every moment, of how you will live that life. "Meaning is not out there," you say, "it is in the doing of the moment."

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Right you create your own definition, you create your own meaning, as you act. I was brought up in a small Indiana town, went to a fundamentalist church. And when I was about 13, thought my mission was to be a missionary to darkest Africa and bring the message. That cleared away a couple of years later. But--

BILL MOYERS: Why did it clear away?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: I kept reading books and finding out things. And after a while, I realized that what I believed in didn't have much to do with reality. And I studied Catholicism for a while. And I went on to take on all the other belief systems. I read all the holy books of, you know, the Koran and the Buddhist and the Hindus.

And I spent years doing that, searching for the meaning of life out there, you know. And eventually, having gone through it all, decided I had to decide on these things for myself. And so I left the holy books behind and started making my own philosophy of life, which pretty much is in the essay you were talking about.

I consider myself a humanist, not just an atheist, but a humanist.

BILL MOYERS: Which means?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Means someone who wishes he could work for the betterment of the human condition without reference to a supernatural thing.

BILL MOYERS: Well, you do often, in your poems. I think of another poem that also has been a favorite of mine, called simply, “Gertrude.” Would you tell me about this one and read it?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: My mother was one of those saintly mothers, some of us are lucky enough to have. Her name was Gertrude. And she was struck by rheumatoid arthritis when she was about 40. And spent a great part of her life after that in bed or in a wheelchair or something. She was hit very hard. And all of her children, my three sisters and I, did everything we could to help, but nothing worked.

And finally she died at the age of 75. I wish that all the people who peddle God could watch my mother die: could see the skin and gristle weighing in at seventy-nine, every stubborn pound of flesh a small death.

I wish the people who peddled God could see her young, lovely in gardens and beautiful in kitchens, and could watch the hand of God slowly twisting her knees and fingers till they gnarled and knotted, settling in for thirty years of pain.

I wish the people who peddle God could see the lightning of His cancer striking her, that small frame tensing at every shock, her sweet contralto scratchy with the Lord's infection: Philip, I want to die.

I wish I had them gathered round, those preachers, popes, rabbis, imams, priests—every pious shill on God's payroll—and I would pull the sheets from my mother's brittle body, and they would fall on their knees at her bedside to be forgiven all their faith.

BILL MOYERS: That's very powerful. And in contrast to all of the people both of us know, some of them who find faith a consolation at the time of death. That's intriguing how the human beings walk such different paths, when it comes to religion.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: When Margie's mother died-- she was another saint. But she died regretting to herself all the sins she had had in her life. And because she hadn't really had any sins, but little shortcomings, she forgot to say thank you to someone or something like that. And the whole thing came crashing in on her and she was convinced she was going to go to hell.

BILL MOYERS: This one is from “Karma, Dharma, Pudding and Pie.” Will you read that?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: This poem has an epigraph from Job. It says, "God will laugh at the trial of the innocent." The poem is called “God's Grandeur.”

When they hunger and thirst, and I send down a famine, When they pray for the sun, and I drown them with rain, And they beg me for reasons, my only reply is: I never apologize, never explain.

When the Angel of Death is a black wind around them And children are dying in terrible pain, Then they burn little candles in churches, but still I never apologize, never explain.

When the Christians kill Jews, and Jews kill the Muslims, And Muslims kill writers they think are profane, They clamor for peace or for reasons at least, But I never apologize, never explain.

When they wail about murder and torture and rape, And unlucky Abel complains about Cain, And they ask me just why I had planned it like this, I never apologize, never explain. Of course, if they're smart they can figure it out-- The best of all reasons is perfectly plain. It's because I just happen to like it this way-- So I never apologize, never explain.

BILL MOYERS: Job kept asking why--

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Poor thing, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: --and never got an answer.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: No.

BILL MOYERS: Jesus himself, "Oh God, why hast thou forsaken me?" No answer.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: I'm not so impervious to the world that I don't know that religion does a lot of good sometimes. That some religious people really are good and they want to do good. But unfortunately, so many religious people let the religions lead them into hatred.

BILL MOYERS: Let's have a little fun with one from “Perfidious Proverbs.” It's actually called “Parable of the Perfidious Proverbs”. And proverb, as people I hope know, is an epigram of wisdom contained in the “Book of Proverbs” in the-- in what Christians call The Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Okay, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: How better it is to get wisdom than gold.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Money buys prophets and teachers, poems and art, So listen, if you're so rich, why aren't you smart?

BILL MOYERS: He that spareth his rod, hateth his son.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: That line gives you a perfect way of testing your inner feelings about child molesting.

BILL MOYERS: He that maketh haste to be rich shall not be innocent.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: But here at the parish, we don't find it overly hard To accept his dirty cash or credit card.

BILL MOYERS: Hope deferred maketh the heart sick.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: That's just why the good Lord made it mandatory To eat your heart out down in Purgatory.

BILL MOYERS: Wisdom is better than rubies.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Among the jeweled bishops and other boobies It's also a whole lot rarer than rubies.

BILL MOYERS: He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Trusting your heart my not be awfully bright, but trusting proverbs is an idiot's delight.

BILL MOYERS: I like that. I like that. That's from “Perfidious Proverbs,” which is your new book. What gives you happiness? What gives you joy?

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Poetry does, music does, theater does, but mostly I think it's just having my wife and living quietly and enjoying being together. I think that's the greatest thing in my life.

BILL MOYERS: Philip Appleman, thank you very much for being with me.

PHILIP APPLEMAN: Thank you.

BILL MOYERS: That’s it for this week. At our website, BillMoyers.com, you can see and hear Philip Appleman read more of his poems. There’s also more on the Supreme Court’s recent decisions and how they may affect your life.

That’s all at BillMoyers.com. I’ll see you there and see you here, next time.

Watch By Segment

Full Show: Is Labor A Lost Cause?

July 6, 2012

Bill opens this week’s show by explaining how last week’s Supreme Court decision not to reconsider Citizens United exposes the hoax that Citizens United was ever about “free” speech. In reality, Bill says in a broadcast essay, it’s about carpet bombing elections “with all the tonnage your rich paymasters want to buy.”

Also lost in the Supreme media chatter last week: a disturbing ruling in Knox vs. SEIU Local 1000 that restricts labor unions from directing collected dues toward political causes. There’s no similar limit on corporations, naturally – yet another indication that the power and status of modern unions is waning, especially when compared to the unbridled influence of Corporate America. With a sharp decline in union membership, a legion of new enemies, and a series of legal and legislative setbacks, can unions rebound and once again act strongly in the interest of ordinary workers?

On this week’s Moyers & Company, Bill talks to two people who can best answer the question: Stephen Lerner and Bill Fletcher, Jr. The architect of the SEIU’s Justice for Janitors movement, Lerner directed SEIU’s private equity project, which worked to expose a Wall Street feeding frenzy that left the working class in a state of catastrophe. Fletcher took his Harvard degree to the Massachusetts shipyards, and worked as a welder before becoming a labor activist. He served as Assistant to the President of the AFL-CIO, and is author of the upcoming book “They’re Bankrupting Us!”: And 20 Other Myths about Unions.

Later in the show, Bill talks with and invites readings by poet Philip Appleman, whose creativity spans a long life filled with verse, fiction, philosophy, religion… and Darwinism. Appleman’s latest collection is Perfidious Proverbs.

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  • Bluegrassbloke

    Yet another topic that should be required reading in schools.

  • http://twitter.com/CalvinLeman Calvin Leman

    Bill, want to talk with Rocky Anderson? 
    http://www.voterocky.org/

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JUKR6IKFXUU4BHGOMHVDXJ6TEQ Ken

    I used to belong to a union and there was a reciprocal lack of interest:  the union representatives were uninterested in the day to day issues of the workers they represented and the workers were uninterested in becoming involved in union issues.  Anyone see a connection here?

  • Peggy Dillon-Jackson

    Moyers to me is pure joy and so much more.  Appleman’s poetry is incredible, I’ll be sharing his name.  Union piece well done, I will watch it again.

  • Reese Gibson

    I WAS AMONG THEM in ’81 when the Air Traffic Controllers had their union broken.  Reagan gets the credit for that, but the real culprits were the still-powerful unions like the Teamsters and AFL-CIO who had their egos in a twit when this group of 12,000 young men did not get their “permission” before PATCO members began their daring act of defiance against unsafe equipment and practices (YES, the strike for the vast majority of members had nothing to do with their salary scale – that was just propaganda).  Reagan was willing to negotiate early in the game but his advisors, quickly realizing that other unions were not supporting PATCO, convinced him to act more forcefully.  The big unions could have shut down the airports and shipping centers by refusing to cross the picket lines, and it would have been over in less than 24 hours.  They chose not to do that and the rest is history.  ONE OF YOUR GUESTS said union members are waiting for a special leader to inspire them.  Those powerful leaders of the day had learned to play the Washington game.  Yes, some were insufferable men, but they knew (and so do we) that many elected leaders in DC were also.  There is no longer any real power left in this country’s unions because, in hindsight, they knew they had let their systems crash with PATCO.   SO YOUR ENIGMATIC LEADER won’t materialize; their’s no power in it.  I personally think those who would have idealogically taken up the union cause  went, instead, where today’s money and power are — look for them on Wall Street.

  • Randydeanw

    Another fantastic episode Bill!!! My only complaint, and I’m selfish I know, is that I would have liked a full hour for both segments!!!! The work that needs to be done to make “Labor” relevant, and to fight back against the Oligarchy, is such a huge topic!!! And my goodness, Mr. Appleman’s poetry was tremendous!!!! Bill you’re bringing attention to such great work, and I WANT MORE!!!!! Thank you Bill Moyers & Company, for the most thought provoking and intelligent programming on television!!!!!! Bravo!!!!

  • Don Lowry

    In speaking about the Unions’ loss of influence, the guests failed to mention the numerous connections between unions and organized crime disclosed back in the ’40s and ’50s.

    They also speak as if only corporate greed OR union greed could be the problem.  But BOTH are a problem for those who have to foot the bill: the customers and the taxpayers.

  • davidp

    When I was growing up there was a strong anti-union  feeling because of their historical connection with socialism or the red-scare decades ago.  Now that I am old, I really see it as a movement for social justice and what is right.  It doesn´t seem that Capitalism, Wall St & the Bankers, the elite, the rich do not seem to understand this because they are perhaps blinded by making lots of money is the American dream or a blend of Social Darwinism that they are the force for good.

  • Edie

    I have just finished reading VanJones excellent book , “Rebuilding the Dream.” His book is a blueprint of what needs to happen to regain social justice in our land for economic,and enviornmental justice in a practical and hopeful way. He looks at the 99% movement, tea party movement, and current political mess and provides solutions not dependent on a leader while we are passive and inactive ourselves. I recommend that Van Jones be invited on Bill Moyers Journal to discuss his ideas with Bill. I encourage everyone to read his book and be inspired to action.

  • Jabunch7

     And now organized crime has infused itself into every aspect of AMerican life, construction, waste management, insurance, banking, politics and on and on. We have become a country that has nothing to do with giving hope to better their lives
    (“Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”Read more: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_does_the_Statue_of_Liberty_say#ixzz1zwPfXfrD

  • Bob Milgrom

     The most dangerous organized crime families are the corporations, the 1% and their political, media and military minions!  A better world is possible!

  • anonymous

    I was extremely disappointed that Bill repeated propaganda used by the 1% in this show.  Bill stated that “Twenty CA counties allow some public workers to make more in retirement than they did while working; …and there’s one county executive retied at 62 so she could bring down a pension of $272,000 a year for life.” 

    Hello–this is a COUNTY EXECUTIVE NOT A UNION MEMBER!!!  This is not what the average rank and file union member receives.I work for the Orange County in CA. I pay 19% of my meager social worker salary for my pension while our county executives have TWO pension plans totally paid for by the county. They received 5% raises while they laid off workers. Workers had to take furloughs and have had no cost of living raises for several years. The average union member in Orange County receives a pension of $29,000 a year .See OCEA website: http://www.oceamember.org/site/apps/nlnet/content3.aspx?c=khKSIYPxEmE&b=6372337&ct=8827359In the public sector, just as in the private sector, there is great inequality. Please do not repeat propaganda used against workers.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Joe-Kenney/100000721688490 Joe Kenney

    Of course, you are right. If they could, corporations would turn the clock back 125 on the Middle Class, making everybody except them, poor. This is not complicated at all.

  • Jahagstrom

    I am a lot disappointed that “labor” doesn’t recognize the OWS movement as exactly the vehicle they are looking for to unite the middle class of America (and we do labor, after all – providing we can find jobs) to take on the corporate inequalities. The photos shown were from OWS events – and yet that effort has been basically ignored. Look at the closing of the port in Oakland – perfect time to join forces. It isn’t too late – we are still out there!!

  • Saddened

    Bill, your guests were eloquent and thoughtful, but rather than focus on failed messaging they should have focused on the shameless opportunism that unions engage in and which leaves a wake of ill-feeling in its wake.

    A couple of years ago, construction unions essentially bought three (out of five) members of our school board and rammed an unpopular project labor agreement down the throat of my community. You can bet there are many voters and taxpayers who will long remember how unions ripped them off out of pure self interest.

    Also, why should any progressive, non-union individual support union efforts such as that in Wisconsin when you have some unions–in that case fire and police–throwing their so-called brethren under the bus, again for their own gain? Right now the case is such that I say to unions, Don’t come crying to me if you can’t even support each other.

    Your guests said unions have done a poor job of pointing out the real enemy. Wrong. They’ve sold their souls for access, forgotten the well being of their members and the public, and are reaping exactly as they have sown.

  • PontifiKate

    Unions need to engage their members and work for the general welfare (inc. non-union members) Unions also need to be ONE, as in one union for working people and engage in general strikes.

  • http://twitter.com/emlynaddison Emlyn Addison

    I don’t understand. Labor unions were originally born to blunt the unethical, profiteering practices of private enterprise. Isn’t this now what federal, state and local governments have been doing in their stead ever since? Why the need for union representation now when work safety standards are now codified in law?

    Are unions not just a hangover from our early industrial past?

  • Jsland1

    My union, if it works correctly as it was meant to, is me.  My daily work experience is a direct voice. Government was never meant to govern directly every job one on one. The last time I looked government knows very little about the particularities of playing the violin in a professional orchestra, or perhaps your  job of working as a kindergarten teacher. When will that fundamental fact ever change?

  • Marc

    Here in Wisconsin I now believe labor is a lost cause.    Most working people do not see that unions do anything for people not in unions.

    Without unions America will no longer be a predominaely middle class country.  But nobody is saying why that is important. 

  • Jennsue57

    Just watched the show. I wanted to comment on the Illinois Pension Fund Reform. As a retired state employee I want people to realize that we were not allowed to pay into Social Security. We paid 8.5 percent of income into the retirement fund. The state did not pay in their part. What happens to a private employer when they do not pay their part of Federal SS tax?? And we accepted contracts with lower wages so we could have the benefits in retirement that we bargained for. Like me many of us never accumulated enough SS credits to receive SS in retirement. And if we did then anything we receive from the state is subtracted from SS.

  • Jsland1

    Somehow, there has been developing over the last few decades a great moral divide between those whose purpose in work is to make something other than money and who are then rewarded for their skills and their time, and those whose purpose in work is to work with money in order to make more money through its direct manipulation. The moral rules that govern money traders have less and less to do with the rules that surround workers. People who work in offices and fields, on 
    stages and in libraries, with research, with tools or vehicles, laying infrastructure, building, travelling, lecturing, lifting the sick and the children, guarding the morally and mentally maimed – they are all constrained by the physical world, by nature, and by the health and energy or lack of it in their bodies and minds. What constrains the movement of money in today’s financial markets?  The characteristics of digital information have next to nothing to do with the world of nature and 
    physical laws. Those that work with it are really playing with probabilities, mathematical formulas, and the plain old ’rules’ of gambling. Their behaviour is being dictated by the financial ‘material’ with which they’re working which isn’t physical and isn’t material. Like a digital game, this work doesn’t know if the people that manipulate the computers are hungry, sick, tired, need a washroom break, in love, doodling, have a toothache, one arm, were a former dancer,  would rather be fishing, or, indeed, if they are even human. 

    Where does ‘natural’ morality go when the work is digital? What will happen when market computing is driven by nano computers? 

    The behaviour of these money traders and manipulators is rapidly redesigning where our western society is places value, and so finally, their work is beginning to remake our culture and our laws. Ordinary daily work,  is rapidly disappearing into an imagined place down below the valued world of market growth and prosperity. The new value of ordinary work begins to live side by side with the market value of the planet’s resources, or with the lives of cattle raised for meat. Workers’ work is becoming a kind of resource fuel only valuable in so far as it contributes to the growth of money and assists the needs of the largest players in the market. The market itself is struggling to become more uniformly global, setting the trading signals for every nation and corporation, showing how globally society must behave in order to support the needs of the market. Digital money’s growth and transformation has 
    become the single ruling activity and around its unique behaviours new values are being created. And of course as that happens, more workers loose wages, jobs. They need money now for what basic needs money can buy, more than they need to satisfy their personal callings or their skills. Old community or social relationships between work, the worker, the employer and their shared needs are nearly completely privatized.  They 
    see nations smashed to their knees by banks, their people subjected to austerity measures. But they see money growing without morality in financial markets that speculated and lost. Obscene amounts of money. And as their wages fall, their values change culturally day by day.

    Political parties in power have to support this new market power. Most of them struggle to conform to what the banks and the markets need.  The whole entire world is involved in this ‘job’ daily, and everyone can see it.

    If you were a big Union boss, seeing this new global way of making money work, year after year, seeing power shift to markets as even countries are unable to go their own way financially, where would your sense be of what you could do for workers? And how could you possibly persuade your workers that the union could be more powerful than Greece, Ireland, Italy, Spain? That individual people could make demands on markets and morals?  Wouldn’t you succumb personally to making your own portfolio as good as possbile? 

    Where do we workers go to get away from the justice and morals of this Brave New World? How far down will the new 

    morality extend? To Kindergarten? To our colleges and universities and their goals? To the arts and entertainment world? 

    To native communities that live live over oil and minerals? To the planet itself as it is being viewed as one gigantic fuel for 

    a global market?

  • Anonymous

     Since when have labor unions “acted strongly in the interest of ordinary (non-union) workers”?  We should get rid of the NLRB.  There is already a court system available to ALL workers.

  • Bluegrassbloke

     Excellent piece, Mr. Gibson. Articulate and factually accurate. Gone to Wall street? Well, maybe. Thanks.

  • Mwlaursen

    I watched this on tv and was trying to figure out why I should pay for some else to have more than I will when I retire. Only thing that might happen is they will pay for me to work for them. My grandfather was there when the UAW was formed and saw a new darkness in the auto industry. I have been in two Unions, the UAW and AFL-CIO. Once they were removed I made more money. The Union did not do much for me, expect take my money and did not provide any service. Union at not capitalist  groups. It simple to see, Unions work to quotas, Free workers work to piece work. The Union is fixed what he makes, the Free worker makes as much as he wants. This then provide us the consumer lower cost goods and jobs stay here in the USA. The people that are underwater in their homes, I am sorry, But why do I have to pay for their mistake. The government is the one that allowed this to happen, and I will lay it right on Barney Franks. He did not do anything in his committee to stop this back in 2004. We allow people that could not afford, thing that we were helping, but now those people now have foreclosures and bankruptcies on their credit report and make them a worse risk. I don’t think that was help. The government is just out to make us all poor. 

  • Bluegrassbloke

     In a word, no.

  • Cdykers

    It is sad that humanity allows itself to be divided. For now, those of us who work for other people, HOPE for fair pay and HOPE for humane treatment at work. Those who hire us, do not care if $6.50 an hour, or $10.25 an hour or $20.00 an hour is sufficient to raise a family modestly in the 21st century. We working people have to give up “HOPE” and campaign for “JUSTICE.” 
    I no longer believe that cutting taxes for the rich or employers will “float all boats.” The rich and/or the employers will pay just enough, so that they remain rich and their employees make only the “going” wage — which has nothing to do with whether that wage will make balanced meals, safe transport, safe homes, modest vacations and good education possible for the workers.

  • xunionsparky

    The unions are their own worst enemy. I left the IBEW, after ten years of membership. I sat in meetings and listened to them discuss the removal of new members to protect the long term members jobs. I saw buddies and friends of the local receive preferential treatment for job calls, while others were forced to starve, leave the union, or travel out of state. They have created their own demise. Lack of trust by the private sector, as well add their own membership will bring them down, no matter the laws.

  • Peter

    From my perspective as a management side labor attorney, unions are critical to a democratic society and workplace.  Unfortunately, the failures of today’s unions are their own fault – as already said – unions are their own worst enemy.  Some of big problems are that unions are and always were exclusive and political, and they prize passion over competence. 

  • Mgriffin

    One element unexplored is the success (relative to soup lines) of the current safety net.  The bare minimum supplied by unemployment payments, welfare et. al.  provides just enough to blunt what would otherwise be a real and complete desperation that would exceed that of the Great Depression.  Most people live in urban areas today and cannot even plant a garden.  Unions are not any more perfect than any other human endeavor but many who now howl for their demise would be in shock if all the gains they enjoy, made possible by unions, were taken away.

  • JonThomas

     It is interesting how one’s viewpoint affects their self-description and vice versa.

    You call yourself, and by using the word “us,” I have to assume you mean all Americans…”consumers.”

    Once you accept such a premise, and assign such labels, you diminish yourself, along with all Americans. Doing so, you squash your own, along with everyone’s, potential.

    I remember the first time I really heard the meaning behind such a label, something inside me shook.

    I recognized immediately what was happening in this country, and that was over 25 years ago.

    I suppose it’s the same old story through out history, just with different names and situations.

    If some are “only” consumers, then by immediacy of intention the mind is tricked into accepting that others must be producers.

    Before a policy is even put into being, the people who accept the designation have assumed subjugation and submissiveness. They turn the power over their own lives over to someone else simply through the innate workings of the psyche.

    This is but one of the tricks that the subjecting class have used on the public at large.

    I am not a “consumer.” Yes, I do consume, but I also produce.

    I use, I borrow, I trade, I barter, I buy, I earn, I produce, I consume.

    I, and all human beings, are dynamic. Everyone reading this needs to hear what they are being told when someone tries to stamp them with such a demeaning label as is “consumer.”

    Your power comes from the rights that the founding fathers enumerated in the Declaration of Independence.

    If we are not careful, we will too easily forget that one of the most poignant expressions of power shown in the first revolution was to choose not to consume.

    If you do not absolutely need to buy something produced by the corporations which are stealing power from the citizens of this nation, then do not give them your money.

    Stop consuming from the sources that would have you in subjection to their political power machines.

    Mwlaursen, I have no way of knowing if the history of your life you spoke about is true, but you are dead wrong by saying that Unions did not assist workers. Now, it may be true that such organizations may need changes, or new models for accomplishing the goals of helping the very ones who make production possible, the workers, but labor Unions have been the only ones who have lifted the living conditions of the average person.

    If the Union were not there, the companies you worked for would have reduced costs by lowering your pay, stripped your vacations, lowered benefits, hired in workers with less seniority, and fired you.

    The lobbyists for business would have gotten labor protection laws reversed, and you’d soon be working beside your 9 year old children.

    Keep listening to the ones feeding you the false postulates you are spewing and you will find that you, and everyone listening to you, will find yourselves slaves. You will have no power save that with comes through butt kissing. I think it was Ayn Rand herself who called it the “Aristocracy of Pull.”

    You are attaching your own shackles and I will thank you for not including me in your use of the word “us.”

  • Maryellent

    Wonderful show  -  Bill Moyers is exactly where we need him – on the air again.   

  • Kdzugan

    Republicans do not support a free market.  If they did they would not try to restrict either public or private employee unions.

  • Anonymous

    Unions needs a lot more than the usual pep rally. The fact is that most
    union members are not engaged in their union and not part of union
    culture. That’s why so many vote against your endorsed candidates; they
    identify more with the NRA and their churches than they do with their
    union. Ask yourself why the majority of Wisconsin AFSCME members refused
    to continue paying dues once payroll deduction ended. Unions are
    reaping the fruits of decades of emotional laziness, fighting over who
    is going to be Captain of the Titanic and ignoring the “silent majority”
    of members who don’t really know what the union does or what is
    expected of them.

    Those who do get involved in the union often
    quit in disgust and become inactive because union infighting wastes too
    much valuable time and energy. It is impossible to come up with new
    ideas because all criticism, no matter how constructive, is taken as a
    personal attack. This is true at the local, state and national level.  The 6-figure salaries of top union officials is directly related to this intolerance. 

    Here’s a little advice I’m sure you won’t take:

    1)
    Try asking members what they want and expect from the union and
    maintain a two-way dialogue. Your self-congratulatory publications are
    rarely read and usually ignored. Include some real debate and
    uncensored letters in your publications and members might start reading
    them.

    2) Stop ignoring “fringe issues” and directly address the
    considerable number of union members who vote for anti-union candidates
    based on guns, abortion, race, gays, etc.

    3) Have union
    leaders study the science of propaganda. Most Americans are emotional
    voters and it is not enough to simply give them “the truth” and expect
    them to act logically. Your enemies are clearly experts at propaganda
    but you know next to nothing.

    4) Unions should support people
    like Brad Friedman who are fighting election fraud and the blatant
    stealing of votes by the GOP. It makes no sense to tell your members to
    work their butts off in elections when your enemies can simply hack the
    vote. Unions should also become heavily involved in the issue of voter
    disenfranchisement by GOP elected officials.

    5) Remember that
    Barack Obama is NOT your friend. You may support him over the openly
    fascist Republicans, but he is the kind of comrade who doesn’t back you
    up when the shooting starts and is more likely to shoot you in the back.
    Indeed, he bears personal responsibility for the GOP victories of 2010
    because he deliberately tried to do as little for working people as he
    could manage. Give Obama some real criticism. Criticism from the left
    makes him far more upset than the openly racist attacks of the GOP.
    Keep the pressure on.

    6) A wise leader learns from his enemies.
    The Tea Party was successful because they started at the bottom, running
    candidates for office in the kind of elections where few voters bother
    to show. You have to start a long-term project of building a labor party
    from the grassroots. Your nonsense about “holding Democrats
    accountable” is a joke and they know it. As Rahm Emmanuel told Obama,
    labor can be ignored and screwed because labor has nowhere else to go.

  • Anonymous

     Unions should be political and passionate.  Provide examples of what you mean.

  • Anonymous

     Yes, that definitely happens.   It’s also true that they get away with this because most members don’t even bother to attend meetings or pay attention to the internal workings of the union.  Half the problem is just showing up!

  • Anonymous

     Your response does not make any sense and sounds like libertarian propaganda.  I suppose you want to give your money to right-wing billionaire Republicans who are taking you for a sucker and laughing at your ignorance all the way to the bank.

  • Anonymous

     Higher union wages have the effect of raising wages in general.  Anything the union achieves, management also gives to the non-union workers so the union advantage doesn’t look too obvious.

  • Anonymous

     Are you really claiming that only factory or blue collar workers are oppressed?  We don’t need unions because we have laws protecting workers?  Such ignorance is amazing but all too common.  You have no idea how few rights American workers have.  Without a union contract, you have almost none at all.  Without unions, Republicans will soon repeal all those protective laws that people fought and died for over many, many decades.

  • Anonymous

     No one is perfect, including blacks, gays, women, etc.  Why don’t you stop supporting them? 

    Construction and law enforcement unions have always been blind and conservative.  They are atypical and far to the right of the great majority of unions.

    But that is changing:

    http://cops4labor.blogspot.com/

  • Anonymous

     Yes.  Most unions are lacking in debate.  The paid staff, especially executives, are too comfortable and fear losing their good jobs.  The activists who are not paid staff are too busy fighting for power and position within the union.

  • Anonymous

     You see an equality that is not there and never has been.  Corporations are the giants.  Their power, money and corruption have always dwarfed any faults of the unions.

  • Anonymous

     If the working-class fools who support Walker and the GOP get their wish (seeing unions destroyed), they will be far poorer than they are now.  What unions do is taken for granted.  It’s like a kid saying that his parents never do anything for him.

  • Peter

     The problem is passion without competence.  And when I refer to political, I mean political infighting, power struggles, and favoritism within the organization.  All distract significantly from the union’s ability to represent and advocate for its members.  I have the rank and file asking me for help because they don’t trust union management.

  • Greenknees

    In the previous generation, WWII folks, unions were essential to the little protection an employee could expect against sexism, racism, favoritism of any non-merit sort.   Since that time, they truly went TOO FAR, greedily seeking payment for not working, unsustainable wages and retirement and other benefits, etc.  GREED took over unions as it has now with the 1%, and neither exhibits professional or societal responsibility.  I’m grateful that the union helped my mother work as a single parent through no fault of her own.   I’m dismayed to learn what the autoworkers had in their contracts.  

  • Anonymous

     Greed?  Our union took wage freezes, furloughs, etc. to help the state out of an economic jam caused by lowering taxes on corporations.  What did we get for it?  Further assaults on our pay, health care and retirement system.  You don’t know what greed is.  The GOP billionaires leading the assaults on the New Deal and Great Society legislation and protections for working people are incarnations of greed and evil.

  • Anonymous

     True, unfortunately.

  • Anonymous

     Yes, this happens all the time.  The media will use non-union public sector executive salaries and benefits to represent “typical” public sector union workers, knowing full well that the latter are struggling to make ends meet and not coming close to pulling down six-figure salaries.

  • CaliforniaBusinessOwner

    Sitting here watching this show is like watching a couple of typewriter repairmen discussing the nuances of competing with the PC industry.

    What a wonderful history the unions have and what great work they have done to transform the lives of working people (both my parents worked in woolen mills in the North of England) but the world has passed the union paradigm by.

    I am a company owner and I cannot afford to have an adversarial relationship with my employees, I need them to be inspired and engaged and involved in what  they are doing. Unions have always been about empowering the disempowered and god bless, but a 21st Century business cannot afford to have anyone on the payroll whose just phoning it in.

  • Anonymous

     You are advocating a stereotype.  A non-union executive (either private or public) is far more likely to be “phoning it in.”  Union workers are too low on the totem pole to do that.  If anyone in that category is “phoning it in,” blame the incompetent supervisor.

  • Beauxrats

    Why is it greed to get paid a decent wage, yes even a very good wage, for some of the most difficult work a human can do: autoworkers, miners, teachers, medical caregivers (those at the bottom), etc.?

  • Faye

    The case Bill mentioned about the $272,000 pension is not an isolated case and the fact that the Unions won’t clean up their own act is their downfall.   Notice how the two guests chose to responded.

    So far as pensions of union members, I’m sure they vary per profession, per city, per state and per position.  They also vary by length of employment, so to say the average is ‘X” has little meaning without considering all these variables.  But that does not change the fact that the practice of “spiking” must be address and stopped.  This is stealing from the public and does not win the unions any support.  

  • Mike D

    Unions, workplace standards, pensions, environmental regulations all rose from a Dickensian Industrial Revolution. All were meant as checks & balances to unfettered capitalism.

    Now with ubiquitous technology, the ghost of Marley is back, having thrown off his chains and reigning unchecked globally. Big money has co-opted all our institutions including the Unions. It is why the #Occupy movement is, intentionally, leader-less. We need a new paradigm, yesterday, not just for ourselves but for the earth.

  • Anonymous

    “There is already a court system available to ALL workers” – oh really? You might want to take at all the ways access to the court system has been blocked over the last two decades (take a look at the evolution and reasoning for the Lily Ledbetter Act if you want just one example of how the court system may not be available). And then there is the expense. How does an unjustly fired worker afford to enter that court system even if their access has not been blocked, for instance? 

    Might I suggest you actually try being an ordinary worker for a change, struggling to make ends meet, without connections and easy access to lawyers. 

  • Edith

     This is something that has worried me greatly for some time.  What happens when the only value is ‘how much is it’?  It’s dehumanizing.  What will happen to us eventually as we embark further and further down this path?  I live in Spain, and seeing how democracy is undermined by ‘the markets’ is heart wrenching.  What are these markets?  Who are they?  Why does this have to affect my child’s education and future prospects?  Our healthcare?  We’ve made all of the sacrifices the market gods have asked of us and yet they want more and more.  But I don’t see the value in what ‘the markets’ have created so far.  I see the opposite.  A distortion of values and decency.  Will we be able to stop it before it’s too late?

  • GreatWhitesCanesDolphinsHeat

    Yesterday, I was watching The Internet broadcasting of the latest The Moyers & Company (a lot better title with previous versions of shows he hosted) broadcast, if you have not seen it, I cannot recommend it more, to you. Mr. Moyers says the strongest opinionated dialogue to the waters and the show’s guests are telling the hardest truths, especially, Bill Fletcher Jr.; Stephen Lerner is a little too positive). Can we say deserves another Emmy (just for this broadcast); like Thom Hartmann deserves the radio version. Then the Vegan icing on The Vegan cake was readings by poet Philip Appleman; atheist!

  • Sefbrown100

    to imply that a union automatically creates problems –animosity – adversarial relating – is not the new union paradigm…– we are value-adding professionals…whom you need to negotiate witrh for that value, not just devine to bequest to us !!!!

  • Sefbrown100

    the greed of the corporate ecxecs is just inpower… spinning the extremes— into the rule will make great sound bites, but the greed is just in their court and we are –you are — accepting the brainwashing , guzzling their kool aid!!  we were stealing their billions and hiding them in our pensions.. !! HOw DARE WE !!!—  Yeah yeah those 1 perenters know how to get what is rightfully theirs and keep us where we belong !!

  • Sefbrown100

    Aw… this is the individuals’ own intellectual laziness… in that they buy the corporate swill fed to us all… sucking just enough on the corp. Teat, we are all living on the matrix, when we could be using the matrix for the inculcation of REAL life… you are observant, you just stopped thinking !!! Silly..!!

  • Sefbrown100

    wow… you are underwater.. poor thing your union and your experience in & then out of unions is not the be-all end-all dear.. the auto industry went down !!!  good nite sleepy !!!!

  • Vincent Amato

    This show did the labor movement more harm than good.  For anyone who knows even a little about U.S. history, there is little mystery about why the majority of the American working class is anti-union.  Decades of red-baiting, purges of union organizers and anti-union propaganda have taken their toll.  Moreover, a working class that has been steadily brain-washed with a lottery mentality in which it is easier to nurture fantasies of joining the one percent than come to terms with the reality of one’s actual working conditions compound the problem.   throughout our history, the owners of American business did their best to block
    unions from forming in the first place and, where that failed, resorted to
    subverting or pacifying them the best they could. Union organizers were
    characterized as communists, un-American, but because the union movement became
    an inexorable force growing out of the desperate economic conditions of the
    early twentieth century, it was seen as an evil better to tolerate than invite
    more dire alternatives. This is not to say that the truce that came to exist
    between the big unions and goverment was not hard won. Incidents of striking
    workers being clubbed, shot down or even massacred riddle our history. If
    unions were never popular, the main culprit was obviously the unrelenting
    campaign against them spear-headed by business interests. It is nevertheless
    important to understand that, for millions of workers, the unions were
    themselves the problem.  The popular 1950s film, On the Waterfront, with Marlon Brando
    portraying the brother of a thug connected to a corrupt longshoreman’s union,
    might serve as an icon of unionism’s divided identity. From the Teamsters’
    Jimmy Hoffa to the United Federation of Teachers’ Al Shanker, a variety of union
    leadership evolved that often placed democratic unionists in opposition to their
    own leadership. Many union organizers in the 1930s were in fact communists, but
    by the 1950s and early 1960s, HUAC, McCarthyism and the cold war had forced most
    radicals out of the movement. This, of course, did not prevent anti-union
    interests from continuing to caricature unions as subversive and anti-American.
    But the philosophical differences between the school of thought personified by
    Samuel Gompers, who put a premium on skilled workers, and the opposing view
    personified by the leadership of the C.I.O., that sought to include all
    workers, took a toll on the movement as a whole.
    We now have automotive
    plants and other industries relocating to the South where business need not
    worry about pesky unions and thus the cost of wages and benefits are minimized.
    There was a time when this would have caused great conflict among workers, but
    now, they see themselves fortunate to just have a job; there is a Chinese boy or
    girl they are told, who will be happy to do your job for a small fraction of the
    hourly wage you demand. As a result, the union movement has become essentially
    moribund.

  • JonThomas

     Was this show supposed to be a puff piece to help unions?

    If you are on the left you are supposed love unions. If you’re on the right you hate them.

    If you’re liberal, you love taxes. If you’re conservative, taxes are the plaque.

    There are tons more issues with the same stereotypical dynamic.

    Has it come to the point in which we expect every show to take those sides?

    Are we so conditioned that even intelligent people are supposed to like either mayo, OR ketchup on their burgers?

    If we don’t line up are we selling out a party?

    Are all liberals “supposed” to vote for Obama?

    Has our system really got to the point, that honest discussions cannot take place because the party regulars will come and take away your cards?

    I found this to be a very honest discussion. I don’t think it was meant to be a downer to unions, nor do I think it was meant to be a propaganda piece.

    Vince, am I mischaracterizing your comment? Do you find it disconcerting that you see it may have “done more harm than good?”

    The next question would seem to be…should this honest discussion not have taken place or been aired because it was too honest?
     
    Maybe we just expect all the boats to line up in an election cycle.

    Maybe I’m just the rube.

    Sad really. Without open discourse, free from the party lines of any agendas, outside opinions cannot be heard. Changes will not happen, and we would be stuck with the problems we have.

    This is one of the places that honesty and differences of opinion always seem welcome. I thank Mr. Moyers and the site staff for the fresh air of such open discourse.

  • Anonymous

    Is labor a lost cause? Not on your ordinary life.

    “… a simple and poor society can exist as a democracy on a basis of sheer individualism.  But a rich and complex industrial society cannot so exist; for some individuals, and especially those artificial individuals called corporations, become so very big that the ordinary individual is utterly dwarfed beside them, and cannot deal with them on terms of equality.  It therefore becomes necessary for these ordinary individuals to combine in their turn, first in order to act in their collective capacity through that biggest of all combinations called the Government, and second, to act, also in their own self-defense, through private combinations, such as farmers’ associations and trade unions.”

    Read more at

    http://lifeamongtheordinary.blogspot.com/2012/07/organization-of-labor-part-three.html

  • Anonymous

     From my experience the only people who wish to neutralize and eventually eviscerate and exterminate the NLRB are the neo-cons and “managerialists”.  One of the great problems of the last two decades has been the dismantling of NLRB power and stacking it with political cronies that “capture” the regulatory agency and execute control fraud over its intervention judgement.

  • Tr4321

    The problem today, is the unions, government workers are under systematic attack by rich corporate fat cats, Karl Rove, far right talk show hosts etc.
    They are aiming to make EVERYTHING private & failing to tell the public the real reason pension funds are underfunded-is those funds invested in corporate/financial products & took a huge loss.  Have heard only one reporter analyze this fact truthfully-but the lies now are what most people are hearing on media with no ability for refutation by those under attack.
    The Republicans have been blatant about bringing Obama down from day one & then harp that he is doing nothing-but his many attempts have been futile due to their actions.
    Unfortunately, I don’t see any young leaders coming on for the future….SCARY times ahead     

  • HenryGeorge

    In an otherwise great broadcast, I found one segment disturbing.  The retiree in the CA city that is receiving a $200,00 plus pension was singled out as an example of why people in general dislike public unions.  Bill and his guests seemed to concur with this opinion.  None of the specifics were given as to why she was receiving what seems like an extremely high pension.  When looking at pensions for public employees (or anyone for that matter) one should cite the average or preferably median pension.  looking at extremes at either end of the distribution simply distorts the picture and is done to favor one political position or another.  I live adjacent to a state, MA, known for its let’s say questionable practices of politicians and public workers.  The great paper, The Boston Globe, often brings to light some of the more egregious practices.  Mostly nothing ever comes of it.  If someone is taking advantage of all that is within current law and regulation, they are not at fault.  The system needs to be fixed by the politicians going forward and that is where the pressure should be applied.

  • Daniel Pfeiffer

    Hi anonymous: It it my feeling that in your example Mr. Moyers was playing Devil’s Advocate on the subject of pensions, and that his honorable guests were not up to the challenge of making an effective case (as you have here)…

    Another question unsatisfactorily answered was the issue of why non-union workers have felt compelled to attack union members at all lately (in Wisconsin and elsewhere)…The answer being the grand scheme of dividing the working class (and all other groups) against themselves, thereby ensuring that we do the work of the 1% in tearing ourselves apart…

    Union, in every sense of the word, is more necessary today than ever…

  • Daniel Pfeiffer

    Mr. Moyers, you do not disappoint, and I eat your programs up like so much broccoli for the brain (I particularly enjoyed the 4th of July episode)…And I must commend you on your commentaries – the one at the top of this broadcast was a particular doozie,


    regarding money in politics today…Allow me to quote two of your gems of wisdom that should be shouted from the rooftops:

    ‘Poor people haven’t lost their voice…they can’t afford a voice…’…and (regarding the desire of the filthy rich to keep their political donations a secret): ‘This is all a sham for invalidating democracy, in the name of democracy; it’s the trick authoritarians always use to hide their real intentions – in this case, absolute power over public life and institutions, the privatization of everything…’

    Forever yours in gratitude and viewership…

  • Ken G

    I would like to give my perspective on pensions
    as a 45-year-old Gen-X’er.  I have relatives with pensions.  Government should be looking for spending
    money from Wall Street and the 1%, not from retirees.  Unions are fighting for compensation that all
    of us should have.  Then again, I was
    born too late to get any good retirement benefits.  Each generation retires on the back of the
    one that follows it, and that’s a lot of burden for Gen-X, and we have neither the
    money nor the voter numbers to see to it that the weight falls elsewhere. 

    This is unfair, and I feel the unfairness in enhanced
    by a kind of generational warfare.  These
    pensions were given to baby-boomers by baby-boomers.  Baby-boom Labor and Management colluded to
    make agreements to indebt us, the next generation, and they did this so that
    they could negotiate for lower wages at the time.  They didn’t want to pay for their full compensation,
    so they kicked the can down the road and left the tab for Gen-X to pick
    up.  

  • CJ Colbert

    While I agree with much of the perspective that the planelists present, I think a fundamental issue is that people see unions as part of/an ingredient in their relationship with their employer.  Because of the success that unions had years ago on big issues, it makes the arguments over percentage points less “compelling”.  Also, I think with regards to the middle class knowledge worker, unions have failed to create a compelling message – or don’t seem to have found their role/footing with this group.

  • Anonymous

    AMERICAN DEMOCRACY IS IN A BURNING BUILDING;

    ….THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY OUT…..

    LABOR !  

    AND A UNITED FRONT !

  • Anonymous

       AMERICA IS  A BURNING BUILDING;

    ….THERE IS ONLY ONE WAY OUT…..

    LABOR !  

    AND A UNITED FRONT !

  • http://SDsustainableFuture.com Philosopher3000

    Public Sector Service is a privilege and a duty, not a job. It should not be for profit. No public sector worker should make more than 5 times the average household income of the people they serve. Until the PUBLIC Sector Unions are willing to fight for economic justice for the people they serve, they will continue to fail.

    Teachers Unions should be for for Students. Law Enforcement should be for Justice. First Responders should be for Victims. Municipal Workers should be for Homeowners. Librarians should be for Readers.

    Public Service is not for PROFIT!

  • http://SDsustainableFuture.com Philosopher3000

    There is no legitimate reason ANYONE in a public sector job needs a $200,000/year pension. Pensions are to make sure you have ENOUGH to live in retirement. No one on the PLANET needs $200,000/year just to live.  

    No public sector pension should pay more than 50% of the salary earned while working. No public sector worker should make more than 5 times the average household income of the people they server. Public service is not for PROFIT! 

  • http://SDsustainableFuture.com Philosopher3000

    Good point, except that PUBLIC SECTOR unions are unnecessary. The purpose of unions is to offset the power of capital. In the public sector there is no such capital. 

    Allowing public sector employees to organize and engage in politics is the very definition of corruption, because the money they get comes from taxes, which are compulsory, not voluntary. If we allow those who work for the government to influence politics then they will decide how high their salaries get. 

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_Bell_scandal

  • Debbe08

    HELLO again…the person making $272,000 is NOT A UNION MEMBER!!! This public sector worker is an EXECUTIVE. This is what Moyers needs to correct from his broadcast. He should issue a correction or response after viewers let him know about his error. Do you think Obama is a union member as well??

  • Obtrusive Elusion

    I have a blunt, politically incorrect, painfully honest answer as to why unions have failed so miserably. The answer (or at least a significant factor) is that the capitalist class is far more intelligent than the working class. Corporate executives are skilled at rigging the system for their own benefit, at manipulating public perception, and at advocating for their own interests. Your typical worker can’t connect the dots between cause and effect, can’t separate fact from fiction, and can’t correctly identify what is in their own best interest. How many radical followers of the FOX political organization are hell bent on sabotaging their own interests? How many hourly employees will hate their fellow worker for a 10 cent an hour difference in pay but have no interest in the 10 million dollar raise that their labor produced for the CEO. How many hourly workers are easily duped into believing that they too will one day be millionaires, and therefore unfairness in the system must be preserved because it will one day benefit them. How many workers are busy blaming gays, immigrants, the government, foreign countries, teachers, and every other conceivable scapegoat for their plight. How many workers are too busy watching the football game or American Idol to learn anything relevant to improving their lives. Wrong is still wrong, but to some degree, these people deserve what they get. The unfortunate part is that these people are accomplices in destroying the economic system for everyone else, including those who are fighting hard for fairness. While this occupies working class attention, the CEOs are buying politicians, and sitting on each other’s boards of directors giving each other record pay increases. What is the political solution for stupid? I don’t know that there is one. A corrupt system occurs naturally as a consequence of human nature. A fair system requires an intelligent, informed, engaged, and moral population, which is counter to human nature. I welcome any comment which can shred my pessimism and prove me wrong, because I wish this wasn’t reality.

  • Obtrusive Elusion

     I agree with your general point that government salaries should be capped. Whether it’s 5X average household income, or 3X median individual income, or some other benchmark is irrelevant to the general point. I would also peg CEO pay to some multiple of the median worker’s pay, say for example 10X. It’s grossly immoral how much of the profit earned by workers is redistributed to executives and shareholders. The corporate system is a modern day recreation of the feudal system in which an army of poor serfs works for the benefit of a tiny minority of aristocrats. The serfs far outnumber the dukes and barons, but their failure to unite allows them to be exploited.

  • Obtrusive Elusion

    Making political speech proportional to wealth creates or sustains a plutocracy. It’s functionally not much different than allowing votes to be directly purchased. Why not just auction off votes. A rich man can buy an extra million votes and just appoint the political lackey of his choice.

  • http://SDsustainableFuture.com SustainbleFuture

    Public sector and Private sector are two different things. People can earn whatever they can get in the Private sector, but anyone who would work for a corporation that pays a CEO more than 40 times the salary of the workers is a fool. The morality question is irrelevant, if you earn 100 dollars for a corporation, you deserve at least 50 of those dollars for your work. If you earn 1,000,000,000 then you could should get 500,000,000, but I’ve never met anyone short of Jonas Salk, or Albert Einstein, who produced so much value. The CEOs of the banks produce nothing of value, and must be bailed out of bankruptcy, yet are given millions in salary and more in stock. STUPID.
     

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendy.beck.14 Wendy Beck

    Public service is NOT for profit. And public servants rarely make more than a living wage. Some outliers may make a large salary, but most toil for salaries that are within the realm of normal for their communities. People who work deserve a living wage. That living wage should be appropriate for their communities, their education and their talents. No one in public service goes into it to get rich, despite the stories of the few freakish you may hear of. Does nepotism and corruption sometimes take place? You bet. But don’t look at places like Bell, CA as the norm. They are the exception everyone deplores.

  • Anonymous

    You mistake intelligence with academic reasoning. There are other sorts of intelligence which take as long to train and secure firmly under one’s control, and the skills which belong to the physical world (as opposed to the world of management) are as important as any other. Please ask yourself what a culture would like like if all we could do was think, plan, and imagine, and no one was able to carry anything out into the real world of bricks and cloth? I sure wish you could go to Europe and spend some time paying attention to what a living culture actually looks like.

  • http://SDsustainableFuture.com SustainbleFuture

    I’ve worked within three municipalities, and a dozen school systems, in each there were “outliers” in abundance. I’d agree that the all public servants need to make a living wage, and they could if it wasn’t for the politically appointed $900,000/yr. salary plus benefits and pension being paid to their bosses. Cut the crap, the unions need to stop protecting the ‘outliers’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendy.beck.14 Wendy Beck

    The only “outliers” that I know of that unions protect are the uniformed service members (fire, police) who spike their last year(s) earnings. Most union members can’t do that. And the elimination of spiking should be the first reform made.

  • http://SDsustainableFuture.com SustainbleFuture

    True, but it’s not just spiking. At a town council meeting I talked with a San Diego Police Lieutenant, 34 yr. veteran now responsible for Public Relations. He confirmed that starting pay for police here is $56K/yr. After his first 20 yrs. he had achieved Sargent pay of 100K/yr. and under the rules was entitled to start collecting his first pension (@90% base pay) in a holding savings account, he then began working on his second pension, while still receiving his salary and was promoted. Now Police have excellent benefits, medical, and otherwise. San Diego hasn’t hired new officers in FIVE YEARS due to the ongoing budget problem due to our pension scandal. This officer was collecting his Lt. salary ($150K/yr) plus his first pension ($90K/yr) plus benefits ($40K/yr) while building on his second pension (90% current pay) which he could collect any time he retired. FOR LIFE. That was 2 yrs. ago the officer has been promoted to Captain ($180K/yr). He costs $410K/yr. while working and $260K/yr retired. He’s 56 now.

  • http://www.facebook.com/wendy.beck.14 Wendy Beck

    Agreed. This cannot be sustained. However, this is again the uniformed services. We must make sure they are paid fairly for the risks they take, but this is not sustainable.

  • SRF

    Around 18:00 the guest on the right says:

    “I think we’ve been very nervous about really with red hot anger naming who the bad guys are and then talking about it in terms that resonate with people, not in abstractions about trillions of dollars, but
    talking about this key group of people at the top that are pillaging the country.”

    That’s exactly what Matt Taibbi has been doing all along.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JIFG5B7JIOYYVK4ZUR6TNAKLC4 django

    What a patronizing, despicably self-righteous, verbose, twit you are.

  • Blacque

    Hahaha…. all of the unions except for the IWW and a couple others banned (or expelled) their members from belonging to the communist party, and signed anti-communist affidavits even though the number of actual communists was negligible at best. That sure didn’t stop the capitalists.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t you think that they’re on the top in the USA (but not everywhere in the world) doing whatever they want because a particular political/philosophical idea took hold in the States
    built on individual greed is good and fundamental to liberty. which turned into a governing system. Now there seems to be no such thing as good regulations or good government. There’s NOWHERE a nation can go without a collective idea of good in government, good in collective responsibility for society and the earth.

  • David O’Brien

    Ongoing Mexico Revolution – Ignored by the Media

    Mexico, July 11, 2012. The largest protest in human history. USA and UK governments pushed the press not to publish. Google censored videos on youtube and restricted keywords on this event.

    Anyone aware of this?

  • Pontifikate

    How did you find out about this? Please share that so that those interested can find out more. If there is nothing on Google or YouTube, please let us know where you found out about this.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dave.atch.5 Dave Atch

    I’m slacker on my activism than I should be, but have really fallen down keeping up with Moyers & Company. Tried to catch up tonight with this show as it was the oldest in my quick overview of the archive. Dynamite, dynamite, dynamite…just as when I used to watch MJ on Friday nights with my mother. Could be that I’m slack cause my job involves dealing with some of those things Philip A thought the God pedalers don’t encounter, dunno. I dug many of his perspectives, and am glad, Bill, you found me some poetry worth hearing (I’m so outta that loop too). How we all got brainwashed with this deficit hawkism I don’t know for sure. I see the Campbell stuff being shared on fb, so of course I have to ask you, as I always do, to consider Rene Girard’s ideas too…another source not unamazing re myth. I find Girard right, except with respect to this topic I think the one percent aren’t just concerned we can become as educated as they are (via the net and shows like yours)…it’s not just possesions and education…I think they’re worried that anyone else will appropriate the dearth of weird workplace psychodynamics (due to the temporality of jobs for one thing) that exists in their lives. Now there, my friend, is the abundant living principle in action. Sanctified more than the rest, so of course the paramount reward is deliverance from these least popular karmas (the U.S. versions are bad, but with globalization who could assert they’re exceptionally bad?). IOW we’re not just rivals over stuff…we’re rivals in ESCAPING some stuff. But it’s astute the one union guy mentioned “scapegoats.” If it weren’t for a few sane ones holding everthing together where I work, it’s easy to imagine how I’d experience what I see elsewhere…and with more and more Friedmonian austerity schemes dancing like sugar plums in those ignorant but “educated” Fox-writer/talker heads…ergo our politicians’ heads, I could end up in just such an uncharmed place myself.

  • also anonymous

    until you understand that the Unions ARE the 1%.
    The Calpers union-managed retirement fund for example, is a $240 Billion behemoth which, when strategically invested, buys them seats on the board of directors of major corporations, where they manage the direction of these giant corporations on behalf of the shareholders, who are every union member invested in the retirement fund.
    Calpers is just one example, but with this knowledge, you will understand that the Unions are “fighting” against themselves, since they also own the corps., in large part, along with every other little worker who has money in a 401K, IRA, or an individual stock portfolio.
    The “enemy of the Union”, or 1%er, as they like to call them, is your grandfather, grandmother, fellow retired union workers, etc.
    There is no evil-minded masked man counting dollars behind curtain….
    In this sense, the unions work to make the corps profitable to get a return on their investments to pay their retirees.
    Of course they also buy politicians along the way, to keep legislation in support of the union effort.
    It’s a very convoluted system when you try to wrap your head around it, but it is what it is.

  • Pontifikate

    Anonymous, Of course union pension funds invest. Many middle class people do too since if you stick your money in the bank these days you lose to inflation. That does not make unions bad. In fact, unions ARE people! And anything that harms unions harms other workers who are not unionized. The only reason we had a middle class was because of unions and people sometimes sacrificing their lives for better working conditions, a 40-hour week, etc. The more people like you try to divide working people, the worse it is for this country.

  • begonio

    I too hope that unions have a renaissance, but I don’t think Lerner or Fletcher acknowledge how the behaviour of unions have so significantly contributed to their loss of the public relations battle. It’s not just because it’s easier to blame unions than go after the real villans.

  • Numbers25

    I would like to add a comment in support of the siggestion by “Thecrowdisuntruth” to consider Rene Girard’s theory of mimetic desire, and to use that as a frame of reference when examining all of the cultural, social and economic structures that have been built to mitigate the EFFECTS of mimetic desire and conflict, while also allowing people to remain ignorant of the root CAUSE, and the possibility that there are solutions available that don’t involve making other people into scapegoats.

    Many people will probably see this next comment of mine as a hypocritical reversal of what I just said about not creating scapegoats, but that all depends on how one looks at it. The first poem Mr. Appleton read at the end of the show about Eve and the serpent reads a little bit different if read from a mimetic viewpoint. One of the more far-reaching possible implications of mimetic theory is that we are not just dependent on “mirror neurons” and imitation for learning what is valuable and to be desired, but that also the very “me” that we are conscious of as being our “self” comes into our awareness only as we imitate and respond to “another”. We are not so much in-dividuals as we are inter-dividuals. (Jean-Michele Oughourlian is a noted psychiatrist who has worked with Mr. Girard on this aspect of mimetic theory)

    If this is true, then the “me” that I know as myself is dependent on my having “another” to imitate and respond to for it to come into existence, and the nature of that other will determine the type of “me” that results from interaction. The interesting thing about the bible is that the first continuous interaction recorded in the bible involving a human is when Eve encounters the serpent. Prior to this had interacted with the Lord in naming the animals, but this was done because the Lord had said it was not good for the man to be alone. The Lord was there with Adam and the animals, and yet He speaks of Adam as being “alone” and in need of another to interact and become one with. But we have no record of Adam and Eve interacting (other than the implication from Genesis 3:2-3 that Adam had told Eve about the forbidden tree and its fruit), or of Eve interacting with the Lord, prior to the events recorded in the beginning of Genesis 3. So by interacting with the serpent, Eve’s consciousness of herself and her surroundings is changed. Prior to contact with the serpent she saw the tree and its fruit as something to be afraid of and avoided (“we cannot eat of its fruit nor even touch it”). But after hearing the serpent in v. 3-4, she suddenly sees the tree as being “something good for food, pleasing to the eyes and desirable”. A total change in perception.
    The basis for this abrupt change is found in a combination of our mimetic make-up and the nature of the word translated as “serpent” in Genesis 3. That word is nachash, and it and its related Hebrew words entail the concepts of sight, sound, and fortune telling. One meaning of the word nachash is “to hiss” ( hence its translation as serpent). This is the “sound” aspect. Another meaning is “shining” (possibly from the bright copperish color of the inside of a serpent’s mouth, or the appearance of its scales). The meaning of the primitive root word is “fortune-teller, diviner, or sorcerer”.

    A “nachash” uses dazzling sights and sounds to dupe people into desiring and accepting his prognostications about the future. That is what he was doing in Genesis 3:4-5. (it is interesting that Mr. Appleman uses the words sun-”shine” and “shimmering” in his poem when describing the serpent’s words) Audio and visual “entertainment” are powerful tools for changing and shaping people’s consciousness and behavior, but most people are too proud to admit how much. Plato wasn’t, Polybius wasn’t, and neither were many other ancient philosophers and historians along with ministers from all ages.

    Genesis 4 has a description of a social and/or religious system based on these tools. Lamech’s 4 kids each symbolize a part. Jubal and his musical instruments provide the enchanting sounds, Tubal-Cain uses his metal-working skills to make shiny metal objects to please the sense of sight, Jabal uses his flocks to provide meat for the barbeque (oops! I meant religious sacrifice!), and Naamah is the promised result. Her name means “pleasant”. It’s endless “party time”.

    The “king of Tyre” in Ezekiel 28, and the “king of Babylon” in Isaiah 14 each share in key ways with the same concepts. The king of Tyre’s is described with his “timbrels” or tambourines for making a suspenseful, hissing sound, and the sight of his “pipes” which are actually not musical pipes, but hollow bezels or jewelry mountings for the placement of shining gemstones, which are pleasing to the sight. The king of Babylon is mentioned in Isaiah 14:11 along with his sound-making viols, and in the next verse we have mention of the shining “light-bringer” who is described as being quite a “sight”. Both are rebuked for living unjustly in luxury and pleasure on the results of oppression. But to the same extent that the oppressed are willing to be “dumbed down” by indulging in entertainment and pleasure, to that extent they are vulnerable to either being oppressed themselves, or being duped into trying to imitate their oppressors.