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  • Marty Kaplan on Big Money’s Effect on Big Media

    Paul Volcker on why banks are wrong to undermine the Volcker Rule, Carne Ross on the power of ordinary people to effect change in government and commerce, and a Bill Moyers Essay.

    Marty Kaplan on Big Money’s Effect on Big Media
  • Kathleen Hall Jamieson on Election 2012 Media Tactics

    Paul Volcker on why banks are wrong to undermine the Volcker Rule, Carne Ross on the power of ordinary people to effect change in government and commerce, and a Bill Moyers Essay.

    Kathleen Hall Jamieson on Election 2012 Media Tactics
  • Bill Moyers Essay: The Ghost of Joe McCarthy

    Paul Volcker on why banks are wrong to undermine the Volcker Rule, Carne Ross on the power of ordinary people to effect change in government and commerce, and a Bill Moyers Essay.

    Senator Joseph McCarthy resumes his testimony before the Senate Investigations subcommittee as the group’s probe of the Senator’s dispute with the Army heads into the home stretch. June 1954. (AP Photo)
    Bill Moyers Essay: The Ghost of Joe McCarthy

Preview: Gambling With Your Money

April 4, 2012

You’d think after such a calamitous economic fall, there’d be a strong consensus on reinforcing the protections that keep us out of harm’s way. But in some powerful corners, the opposite is happening. Business and political forces, including hordes of lobbyists, are working hard to diminish or destroy these protections. One of the biggest bull’s-eyes is on the Volcker Rule, a section of the Dodd-Frank Act that aims to keep the banks in which you deposit your money from gambling it on their own — sometimes risky — investments.

On this week’s Moyers & Company, Bill talks with the namesake of the Volcker Rule — Paul Volcker, who served two terms as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1979-1987 and formerly headed President Obama’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board.

Volcker contends the rule aims to curb conflicts of interest between bankers and their customers. He suggests that former investment companies like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which sought banking licenses during the economic crisis in order to access federal protection against failing, should now turn in those licenses if they want to do speculative trading.

If all that disillusions you about government, know you aren’t entirely powerless to create change. So says Bill’s second guest, Carne Ross. Once the rising star of British diplomacy and now a global activist, Ross’ book The Leaderless Revolution outlines ways to create alternative systems of governance and commerce.

Ross, who resigned his British diplomatic role in objection to his government’s positions during the Iraq War, shares nine crucial principles for effective citizen action. He also describes his work with the Occupy movement to devise an alternative banking system – an “Occupy Bank” – more aligned with the public interest.

Moyers concludes the broadcast with an essay on what several American cities are doing to restructure big banks from the bottom up.


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  • GradyLeeHoward

    A multitude moves at the pace of its slowest followers.
    But that should be no reason for M&C to be less provocative than BM’s Journal. Most of the people I know, and I know some fund managers and traders and analysts of the first order as well as some imaginative revolutionaries, don’t expect the Volker Rule and Dodd-Frank, even if enforced with zeal and dedication, to forestall another bubble and meltdown in the near term. The major structural liabilities of crony capitalist financialism are being decried as hoaxes, just like global warming. And Austerity will by no means provide any equilibrium, but depress grassroots economic initiative even worse.  Global regulatory institutions seemingly have no regard for the majority of people who do the necessary work, but are focused upon prolonging Oligarch profit-taking as long as possible at public expense. We pretty much confront a global fascist putsch. Failure to recognize that condition is killing us, and any democratic tendencies.

    Today at Truthout elderly Noam Chomsky summarizes the dissolution of public education. And several commentators there argue that school not only costs more but that it is also a contaminated and adulterated product. And this situation has become typical for all public goods. When M&C observes (Winship) that parents borrow kindergarten tuition and another page editorializes that speculators are like parasites eating the guts out of the commons these are appropriate subjects for your front page headlines. Reaching back to consult an admired regulator from the Ford-Carter era seems an anachronistic alternative. I don’t think we can continue to argue within an economic system that is devouring itself.
    M&C has more or less conceded that US elections are ineffectual under the present rules and practices. It may be time to embrace a paradigm shift and use our political imaginations to the fullest. Holding on to comfortable failings will no doubt kill civilization, or at least all that is good in it. Moyers needs to soar! Moyers needs to take a leap. That is the only viable action anymore. Put the crippled camel at the rear on a truck. We ain’t got time for a stroll through 1930s Alabama.

    I was safely in Switzerland with a teaching visa but I came back anyway. I had a place to live and savings but I came back anyway. If the security state frames me or disappears me I may be sorry. I used my return ticket because I believed people like Bill Moyers are sincere and really are substantive US patriots. I wouldn’t have come back to a near police state anyway if I didn’t think we had one more chance. Quit wasting it being polite to unrepentant criminals. Say what you mean and mean what you say. Give us cause to believe. 

  • Petebartelt

    After 30 years of listening and watching very able and accomplished people decode how our political and economic systems have been coopted by the wealthy and powerful, I have never heard any practical remedies. Like physicists search for elegant and simple solutions, I have searched for an elegant and practical solution to this sociological problem. Unlike David Stockman I don’t think a costitutional ammendment is practical or achievable. I believe our nation would right itself if the voters would simply, under any condition, ever vote for an incumbent politician. Being a career politician wouldn’t be an option. It would eventually attract the right kind of public servant, one who would serve the pubic interest and go  back to their previous endeavors. They would never have to worry about reelection or raising election funds. By never voting for an incumbent, voters could replace the entire congress that does only the bidding of the special interest groups (read banks oil companies,pharmaceutical companies, for profit health care and the rest) .The problems of the country are so solvable, but if, like alan Simpson noted the basic citizen of this great nation is “out to lunch” on these issues this country will get a lot worse before it gets better

  • GradyLeeHoward

    Your partial remedy has merit for me because of a story I heard this on Morning Edition NPR today. Reviewing the stats researchers have shown that a strategic committee appointment (one that regulates industries or markets, but not one that serves public interests such as education) can bring in hefty contributions from wealthy interests. (It takes about 1-2 million dollars on average to defend a House seat.) Ways and Means and other revenue providers bring in so-o-o much excess money that our Duopoly (the two entrenched parties) levy dues on such appointments. (Sounds shady don’t  it?) So the political system itself is so awash in slush it would be hard to clean up incrementally. I think political cliques would replace big names within 2 years of term limit enforcement. I have been a Congressional aide, and from my experience I estimate voting our incumbents wholesale would have no lasting effect on the honesty or quality of legislators. The two consequences I see are:
    1) the further marginalization of Congress as a (dis) respected institution because it  would become more chaotic and opaque, run more and more by lobbyists.
    2) increases in Austerity Radicals (tax pledgers) who would favor nihilist Austerity and Corporate Deregulation. They would continue to propagate the Big Lie approach while gutting and privatizing public goods.
    Pete’s approach sounds OK until you consider these dangers. I think Pete may even be disingenuous in that he is probably of the Teapartying persuasion and an aspiring rugged individualist. These attitudes are anachronistic in our depleted and crowded world where selectivism by sex, race, religion and class can only inflame conflict. I would recommend Pete’s solution if we had a Progressive and Hmanistic tird party slate from which to choose, but taks to fascist fearmongering and MSM propaganda we do not. What we do have is overfunded corporate fascists masquerading as budget balancers. We can’t even investigate 9/11 or the Bailout because these forces are poised for a coup. Freedom does not result from commodifying reproduction and subjugation of women. Freedom will not result from more automatic weapons in civilian hands. Freedom does not spring from abject poverty among  the lower tier of working families. Freedom does not come from telling people who believe differently or choose not to believe that they are doomed to Hell. And Freedom does not come from sending the electorate on a fool’s errand. Freedom now can only come from the corralling of crony corporate capitalism and its institutionalized violence. There is no Freedom without Peace; and no Peace without Justice. And Justice is impossible without equal access to opportunity for most people. Our main obstacle is the concentration of wealth and income. Anything that reverses it is good. Will term limits or incumbent dumping fix it? I think not. It might disrupt the poker game but only for a moment.

  • Drew Sargent

    There is no way that I can express my true debt to Bill for shedding light on the truth of our politics and nation. I just keep contributing to the PBS station. Bill is my hero.

  • Patrick Fahey

     Dear Grady,
    A refreshing and hopefully clairvoyant vignette of political aptitude.  A teacher-to-teacher exchange:  I didn’t start my teaching career until after having done 2 years of Mass Civil Disobedience to stop war, nukes and Reagan policies in the early 80’s after graduating from UC Berkeley in 1981, then doing carpentry for a year on behalf of the people in Nicaragua.  Came back to the US to–as you did–to give it a go, to change the system from within–by becoming a radical, energetic mathematics teacher.  Nearing 60, I feel renewed again by your energetic response.  There is real action in your words.  I am very pleased and honored. I am on FB.  My name is Patrick Fahey, I teach math at Lowell High School in SF.  People who want to see if there is still “one more chance” to make a difference need to pull together.  Let’s do that.  How can we do that?  PS  see Catherine Austin-Fitts (