BILL MOYERS: This week on Moyers & Company…

SHEILA BAIR: They confuse bank profitability with bank safety and soundness, they are not the same thing. There is the right way and there is the wrong way.

BILL MOYERS: And your questions for Richard Wolff.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well that’s an immense question.

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BILL MOYERS: Welcome to the question of the week: are the banks – banks too big to fail and too big to jail – are these monsters courting another disaster?

That's what it looks like. As you no doubt heard, last week, the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations issued a report and hauled in key executives from JP Morgan Chase -- the world's biggest derivatives trader -- demanding to know how the bank blew 6.2 billion dollars in funny money -- I mean, derivatives – and hid the losses with some fancy accounting tricks aimed at fooling both regulators and the public.

Senator Carl Levin, the Chairman, bluntly summed up what they found out: “It exposes a derivatives trading culture at JP Morgan that piled on risk, hid losses, disregarded risk limits, manipulated risk models, dodged oversight, and misinformed the public.”

The trail led directly to JP Morgan’s celebrated silver-haired Chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon, said to be Barack Obama’s favorite banker. An e-mail requesting an increase in the bank's "risk-taking" received a two-word reply from Dimon: "I approve."

But the well-connected Dimon - whose bank was being bailed out by almost $25 billion from taxpayers even as he was making $35 million a year -- was spared from testifying personally and having to disclose exactly what he knew about the shenanigans of his lieutenants -- and when he knew it.

Among the many of us who will be anxiously awaiting those revelations, should they come, is my guest, Sheila Bair. A long-time Republican, she was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006 to head the FDIC, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. During the financial collapse, she oversaw the takeover of more than 300 banks that went belly up and was an outspoken opponent of the taxpayer bailouts. As one influential observer wrote during that time, Sheila Bair never forgot that her most important constituency isn’t the thousands of banks she regulates, but the millions of Americans who use them.

She now heads the Systemic Risk Council. That’s an independent committee formed by the Pew Charitable Trusts to monitor what’s being done to prevent another financial collapse. She was at this table a few months ago to talk about her book, Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself.

And I’m pleased to welcome you back.

SHEILA BAIR: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

BILL MOYERS: I felt perhaps we were getting the bull by the horns until I saw those hearings last week.

SHEILA BAIR: Yeah, it really was amazing. I mean, a lot of that we knew already. But it was really laid out in gruesome detail in that report. It was quite shocking. You know, I don't think-- I think the system's got incrementally safer, a little bit safer but nothing like the dramatic reforms that we really need to see to tame these large banks and to give us a stable financial system that supports the real economy, not just trading profits of large financial institutions.

BILL MOYERS: Were you surprised by anything that you heard at those hearings?

SHEILA BAIR: Well, I was, you know? I viewed, like a lot of people viewed JPMorgan Chase as a pretty well-managed bank. And so yes, I was surprised at the ability of this trader in London to build these huge positions. And even when he started calling foul the senior, the next level of management above him really didn't get on top of it. I was not surprised but appalled by the way they were manipulating their models that are supposed to be able to determine how much risk is involved in various trading positions.

BILL MOYERS: And what advantage did they gain from manipulating those--

SHEILA BAIR: Well, there were--

BILL MOYERS: --models?

SHEILA BAIR: There were a couple things going on. One was it's clear that they were trying to boost their regulatory capital ratios in anticipation of some new capital rules coming into effect. This is a key defect with the way regulators, bank regulators view capital adequacy at these large banks. They let those capital ratios to be determined in part by the risk models of the banks. So if the banks produce models that say, "These assets are safer," it means they can report a higher capital ratio. So it really gives them upside down incentives to manipulate their models.

BILL MOYERS: So for the layman, what is the capital ratio? And why is it so important?

SHEILA BAIR: A capital ratio is simply the percentage of your assets, what's on your balance sheet, the percentage of that that is funded with common equity.

So when banks have a low capital level, that means that they're borrowing a lot to support themselves. Whether it's a household or a big bank, you borrow too much and you don't have enough common equity to absorb losses you-- that's what it means to fail. You start having losses. You don't expect them. You have a very thin capital base. You can't make good on your debt obligations. You fail.

BILL MOYERS: And this is what--


BILL MOYERS: --happened in the buildup to the big crash?

SHEILA BAIR: Yeah, exactly.

BILL MOYERS: What surprised me and others that they could hide these hundreds of millions of dollars in losses, as you say, and survive even internal scrutiny.

SHEILA BAIR: Yes, and even after it was in the Wall Street Journal, you know it--

BILL MOYERS: Hiding in plain site.

SHEILA BAIR: Yeah I think it, what was going on was they were in this big power game with a bunch of hedge funds who were trying to, who realized that this London Whale trader was building up huge positions in a fairly narrowly traded product called tranche CDS. And so they outed them. You know, they were trying to squeeze them. They let the public know, "Hey, you know, JPMorgan Chase is exposed here." And then the losses really started to mount. And it's amazing that the papers picked up on it before the senior managers or the regulators, for that matter.

BILL MOYERS: Yeah, where were the regulators?

SHEILA BAIR: I don't know. You know, I think we need a culture change with the regulators. I think and I talk about this a lot in my book. You've got a lot of good, well-intentioned people. But they confuse bank profitability with bank safety and soundness. They are not the same things.

There's the right way and there's the wrong way to make money. They're almost aligned themselves to some extent with bank managers and wanting to have the appearance of profitability, because they think that makes a sound banking system. And it's really upside down. You can't ignore the problems here. And some of that is overlooked. It’s overlooked a lot.

BILL MOYERS: We thought we were going to get a culture change after the big crash.

SHEILA BAIR: Yeah, well, I think it's coming slowly. But not fast enough. It's, you know, it's amazing that, you know, so many years after the crisis hardly, you know, less than half of the Dodd-Frank rules have been completed. The ones that have been completed, a lot of them are watered down.


SHEILA BAIR: It really needs to, well, the regulators succumbed to industry pressure to do this. And even some of the statutory provisions in Dodd-Frank had too many exceptions. But then we get even more exceptions since these proposed rules come out, things like the Volker Rule. You know, it should be just a simple ban on proprietary trading, but we get these very complicated rules that are very hard to enforce and easy to game.

BILL MOYERS: When Dodd-Frank and the Volker Rule managed to get through a recalcitrant Congress, many of us were hopeful. Would you tell us briefly what Dodd-Frank was supposed to do and what's happened to it and what the Volker Rule was supposed to do and what's happened to it?

SHEILA BAIR: Right. So Dodd-Frank was, is a very large, a very, it is a complicated law. Probably more complicated than I would have preferred. But it is what it is. But at the heart of it is ending "too big to fail." Giving the government new tools to resolve large financial institutions when they fail in a way that will not hurt taxpayers, not subject taxpayers to risk.

Well, it forced the losses on the shareholders and creditors of those large financial institutions, which is where they belong. It also requires the Federal Reserve Board to have much tougher what we call prudential standards. So higher capital more stable liquidity, more stable funding sources, less reliance on short-term debt.

Those are the types of things that were problems during the crisis. And the Fed has been mandated. And they haven't finished those rules yet to have better regulation to prevent these banks from getting in trouble to begin with.

And the Volker Rule, too, a key part was designed to prohibit prop trading by those institutions that are in the government safety net. So if you're a bank holding company that has an insured bank that has FDIC backed deposits or access to the Federal Reserve's discount window, you know, you have a lot of government support, as is provided to traditional banks.

So Volcker’s really about customer service. And your banking model should be you serving customers, making loans or, you know, if you're facilitating trading, you make your money off of a commission, not by by trying to make a profit off the spread.

And that's really what Volker was about. And it turned into a lot more complicated thing than it should have been.

So I do think, you know, I talk a little bit about structural changes, too, that I think could make, give us a more robust regulatory system, because now I think we have cognitive capture, which means basically--

BILL MOYERS: Wait a minute, what does that mean?

SHEILA BAIR: It means the regulators tend to look at the world through the eyes of the banks. So they don't look at themselves as independent of the banks. They view themselves as aligned with the banks, that their charter is not to protect the public, but to protect the banks. And this is the premise of the bailouts, that somehow if you take care of the banks, you're going to take care of the broader economy. And it just didn't turn out that way. They're two very different things.

BILL MOYERS: As coincidence would have it, I took your book with me on a trip last week. And I was actually reading the last chapter again, in anticipation of your coming, before I actually looked at some of the hearings. You say, "When you read about problems like the Libor or Whale scandal or the JPMorgan Chase trading losses, don't accept gobbledygook about regulators needing more information or needing more power." Then the next day I look at the hearings and--

BILL MOYERS: --more gobbledygook, right.

SHEILA BAIR: Well, you know, they had the information.

I mean, there were plenty of warning flags. Those examiners should have been all over this. Senior managers at JPMorgan Chase should have been all over this. It really was remarkable how kind of lackadaisical things were until the losses were right there in front of them. And then it was, you know, all hands on deck. But that was too late, at that point.

BILL MOYERS: This is what is actually scary to me. The Senate found that not only did the regulators fail to act aggressively in uncovering the risk, but that Dimon on his own for a period of time decided not to comply with federal regulations and flatly denied the regulators crucial data. Does that scare you?

SHEILA BAIR: Right. Right. Right. Well, that was amazing. And what’s troubling in that, you know, to the extent it reflects how he views examines and their role.

He was apparently worried about leaks. But I, you know, I think that most examiners are quite, you know, confidentiality is sacred with examiners. So I wouldn't, giving examiners information, I wouldn't worry about leaks. I don't think that was a legitimate concern. And one that couldn't justify denial in any event.

BILL MOYERS: Could reckless behavior like this bring the system down again?

SHEILA BAIR: It was a very big loss. But, you know, I think it underscores how even in banks that are viewed as very well-managed, how there can be major management breakdowns.

And how these derivatives, these actively-traded derivatives can generate very, very large losses in a very short period of time, how volatile they are. So, you know, I think this is all problematic and should inform some future regulatory choices. One is on the Volker Rule. Another is on bank capital. Because we don't know the next time that six billion could be $16 billion, so the capital rules are all upside-down, they need to be fixed, and the Volcker Rule needs to be fixed.

BILL MOYERS: Do they need to be fixed? Or do they just need to be used? I thought both Dodd-Frank and Volker had pretty well put into place the tools that regulators need.

SHEILA BAIR: Well, I think they do, too. You know, the statute could have been more prescriptive. Instead, it delegated authority to the regulators to fix it. And the regulators wanted it that way. The Fed and the Treasury wanted-- they didn't want a lot of prescriptive rules in the statute itself. They wanted the authority to do it themselves.

And so they got what they wanted. But the record has not been as good as it should be. You know, the Volker Rule is still not finalized.

And what's been proposed is very weak. It needs to be strengthened. The bank capital rules still haven't been changed. It's, and again, what's been put out there is pretty weak. It needs to be strengthened dramatically.

BILL MOYERS: So for the stranger who came up to me in the Dallas Airport, where I was reading this book, looked at it, and said, "You know, I don't understand it. I don't even know why I should care."

SHEILA BAIR: Yeah, he should care. Or she.

BILL MOYERS: Why should he care? Why should he care?

SHEILA BAIR: Well, because look, when this crisis hit, first of all, there were a lot of bad loans were made by large institutions that should have known better. And were there borrowers that took advantage of it? Yeah. But there were a lot of innocent victims, as well. But it wasn't just the mortgages. When all those losses came home to roost with financial institutions that did not have enough capital to absorb those losses, what did they have to do?

They had to pull back on their credit lines. They had to pull back on their lending. And people, small businesses couldn't get their credit lines renewed or they couldn't get their -- a lot of homeowners couldn't get their mortgages refinanced. You know, people who were in the middle of development projects had had their money pulled.

There was this huge pullback in credit, because these large financial institutions had too much leverage. And they had to pull in their horns and nurse their balance sheet.

So you have these large financial institutions with these huge trading operations that can be subject to very sudden, volatile losses, not enough capital to absorb them. You get into another recession.

BILL MOYERS: Is the banking system safer today?

SHEILA BAIR: Yes, it is. There is more capital in the system now. That's been done through the stress testing process that the Federal Reserve Board has led. And that has helped. That has helped a lot. We do have more capital, more of these banks balance sheets being funded with common equity and less with debt. But the ratios are still far too low.

I think people can understand that basic notion. And if you get capital levels up, you reduce the leverage. And that makes the system much, much more resilient. You know, it also-- they're better than prescriptive rules, too. Because we never know what the next stupid thing is going to be that's going to get a bank into trouble, but if you make--

BILL MOYERS: We human beings are brilliant at figuring out the next stupid thing.

SHEILA BAIR: Yeah, so exactly. But if they have a nice thick cushion of capital, whatever that next stupid thing is, they're going to have a much better chance of surviving it and continuing to lend to the economy than if they have very thin capital levels, which means they have a lot of leverage, a lot of borrowed money there.

BILL MOYERS: Are these big banks still too big?

SHEILA BAIR: Well, I think they are. I think it's more complexity than size. You know, most of the, all the London Whale, Libor even most of the losses during the crisis, those were occurring in the trading operations, not the lending parts of these banks. The loans, they made some bad loans, but we probably could have handled the losses on the loans.

A bank, even a very big bank, if it takes deposits and makes loans, I think we can deal with that. The FDIC's been dealing with that kind of business model for a long time. When loans get into trouble, generally, it's a slower process. You have time to work with the borrower, try to mitigate losses. But with a trading loss, it's immediate and you're really in the soup if it's unexpected.

BILL MOYERS: Give me a quick definition of the Libor scandal?

SHEILA BAIR: The Libor, the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate, was a process that was easy to game. It was basically a survey to a bunch of large banks that said, "If you had to borrow today, what do you think the interest rate would be that you'd have to pay?"

And so they were allowed to guess, right? They didn't have to base it on actual transactions. And so the Libor, the traders at these large institutions figured out that if they could manipulate the rate, if they colluded and gave information together that would raise or lower the rate, that they could make money. So it was just good old-fashioned manipulation of an interest rate that's very important to a lot of municipalities and corporations that use interest rate swaps to manage interest rate risk, as well as people who have mortgages and credit cards.

BILL MOYERS: So it could impact all of us?

SHEILA BAIR: It absolutely could. I think, you know, there's nothing more sacred than an interest rate to the financial system. I mean, the interest rate is the primary cost of credit products. And so if you're manipulating that rate you've got a problem with your financial system. And the thing that frustrates me about Libor is that this is criminal manipulation. There's no doubt about it.

You read their e-mails that show these guys colluding with one another. And I think only two traders at UBS have been charged with criminal charges. Nobody's gone to jail yet on it. The settlements that have occurred there again are forcing the corporations, the corporate entities at the banks to pay these huge fines. But individuals aren't being prosecuted or brought to justice. --I don't understand that.

BILL MOYERS: Our attorney general, as well as other Washington officials say, "Well, we can't really prosecute them, because they're too big they would hurt related companies."

SHEILA BAIR: I mean, honestly, I just look, if prosecuting the individual is going to -- I mean, even if you accept the premise of too big to fail, which I don't accept, you can still sue the individuals. That's not going to bring the system down.

BILL MOYERS: So what's going on?

SHEILA BAIR: The financial regulatory enforcement system. It's basically become a cost of doing business, right? So you bring these cases. You settle them. It's paid out of the corporate pocketbook. Individuals aren't held accountable. Very few people have gone to jail. And you don't change behavior.

You know, the whole point of this is to change behavior. We're just not doing it.

BILL MOYERS: I read the other day that between 2009 and 2012, JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon's bank, paid $16 billion for legal defense fees and eight billion dollars in settlement for cases involving regulatory avoidance. I mean, that's almost a third, this estimate was, of their profits. If I was a shareholder, I'd say, "Why are you spending all that money on that?"

SHEILA BAIR: It's amazing that the easiest way to avoid all this is to stop doing these, you know, change these behaviors.

Yeah. Well, they do. And, you know, I'm hoping Mary Jo White is going to be the new SEC chairman. She's got a long history in law enforcement. She was obviously in the private sector for many years and that's created some controversy. But--

BILL MOYERS: Defending big banks.

SHEILA BAIR: Yeah, but I'm going to hope with her because I think, yeah, and I think she's at the end of her career. Her legacy's going to be how well she does at the SEC. She's not actually someone like her could be the very best regulator. Because they've been they know where all the bodies are buried.

She's not trying to cultivate a client list to go back into practice. She, this is the last thing she's going to be doing. But I hope she looks at the SEC enforcement strategy and starts suing individuals and looks at it as a way to change behavior, just not to rack up a bunch of press releases. And, I, you know, I think that fresh look is going to be helpful, so let’s all wish her luck.

BILL MOYERS: There are some proposals floating around Congress to break up these last remaining big banks. Are you sympathetic toward them?

SHEILA BAIR: Well, I am, though I think, you know, government's not doing much of anything these days. You know, and I never know, these large financial institutions still have a lot of clout on the hill. So reopening Dodd-Frank and trying to get Congress to do something on this, I think it's a very healthy discussion. But it, you know, at the end of the day, I'm not sure where it'll take us. And so my focus has been and the focus of the Systemic Risk Council, which I chair, has really been on the regulatory tools that are already available under Dodd-Frank to deal with this problem.

The Fed and the FDIC have the authority to order a restructuring of these large banks or divestiture if they cannot show that they can be resolved in a way that doesn't hurt the rest of the system. If they fail, they can go into a government controlled bankruptcy or a traditional bankruptcy and not impose losses on anybody else. So that's an important showing that they have to make. And if they can't make it, the Fed and the FDIC now have joint authority to go in there and say, "Well, you need to get smaller. You need to restructure, so we can resolve you in a way that won't hurt the rest of the system."

BILL MOYERS: But they also--

SHEILA BAIR: Those both need to be used.

BILL MOYERS: They also have armies of lobbyists, these big banks, that--

SHEILA BAIR: Well, they do.

BILL MOYERS: --came after you, when you were at FDIC.

SHEILA BAIR: They, well, they still do.

BILL MOYERS: Now that you're running the Systemic Risk Council. Describe how that lobbying and the pressure works--

SHEILA BAIR: Yeah, well, it's--

BILL MOYERS: That culture of Washington.

SHEILA BAIR: It is not good. It's, you know, I think the lobbyists view their success rate by how much good stuff they can get for their clients, right? And their clients want to make money. So their focus is regulatory changes that will make money for their clients, not that will promote system stability.

And I'm not saying, you know, "Listen to everybody." Sure, but, you know, understand that when those lobbyists come in, whether you're a regulator or a member of Congress, they're arguing their own bottom line. They're advancing positions that are going to make them more profitable. And making them more profitable is not members of Congress' job and it is not a regulator's job.

So there needs to be more separation. And people need to rise up and say, "I'm sick of this, you know? And I'm going to start voting-- about my vote about you is going to, you know, determine whether I think you're on top of financial reform and whether you're standing up to these big banks, not whether you're coddling them or your staff's getting jobs with them or what have you."

BILL MOYERS: You know, as I say, I was reading this the day before the hearings. And I went back to your final chapter, where you said, "We need to reclaim our government and demand that public officials, be they in Congress, the administration, or the regulatory community, act in the public interest, even if reforms mean lost profits for financial players who write big campaign checks." I mean, that's a marvelous aspiration, but in practice?

SHEILA BAIR: Well, you know, I think members of Congress need to rise above, look, I know they're under tremendous pressure to raise money to get reelected. But why are they there to begin with if they don't want to do the public service? And, you know, my sense is do what's right. And let the chips fall where they may. But, you know, you and I have talked nostalgically about the 1980s when we had the World War II generation in leadership ranks in Congress, and especially in the Senate. And they did rise above a lot of the special interests with tax reform and fixing the Social Security system.

You know what? They managed to survive reelection. I think really if you take principled positions, stand up for them, explain them to your constituents, you know, it may be that they'll raise more money by refusing the Wall Street guys and going to the Main Street constituents who vote for them. And I think, at the end of the day, they'll sleep better at night, too.

BILL MOYERS: And that's all the more reason to read Bull by the Horns: Fighting to Save Main Street from Wall Street and Wall Street from Itself. Sheila Bair, thank you very much for what you're doing and for being with me today.

SHEILA BAIR: Thanks for having me.

BILL MOYERS: It’s not only our banking system that remains questionable and shaky – it’s the whole of our economy – that complex mix master of capital and labor, prices and production, goods and services, rewards and punishments, largely driven by private decisions in what has been defined, mythologically, as “the free market.” Which brings us back to Richard Wolff. I say “back” because as many of you will recall, this provocative and imaginative economist was here just about a month ago to lay out, in his words, how “capitalism has hit the fan.” Here’s the centerpiece of his argument:

RICHARD WOLFF on Moyers & Company: For the majority of people, capitalism is not delivering the goods. It is delivering, arguably, the bads. And so we have this disparity getting wider and wider between those for whom capitalism continues to deliver the goods by all means, but a growing majority in this society which isn't getting the benefit, is in fact, facing harder and harder times. And that’s what provokes some of us to begin to say it’s a systemic problem.

BILL MOYERS: My conversation with Richard Wolff opened such a world of ideas that on the spot I asked him to return – and I asked you to send us the questions you’d like to put to him. Your response was as overwhelming as it was smart and informed. Just take a look at some of the letters we printed out from our website, Thanks to everyone who wrote. We’ll get to some of these in just a minute – and to even more of them with Richard Wolff in a live chat next Tuesday at our website,

Richard Wolff taught economics for 35 years at the University of Massachusetts and is now a visiting professor at the New School University here in New York City teaching a special course on the economic meltdown. His books include Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism and Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It. Welcome back, Richard.

RICHARD WOLFF: Thank you Bill.

BILL MOYERS: Let's move on to questions from the viewers who tuned into our conversation three weeks ago, hundreds of them responded.

Here’s Michael from Tulsa, Oklahoma.

MICHAEL: Professor Wolff, what can we as individuals in communities do to regain control of our economic destiny?

RICHARD WOLFF: We have an old tradition in the United States of doing things in a cooperative way. We celebrate it with phrases like team spirit or team effort. It's the idea that a project will be better done if everybody has an equal stake and an equal say in the decisions that will determine the outcome. I like that idea, I believe it has a lot to do with our commitment to democracy.

So my answer to the question is we ought to have much more democratic enterprise. We ought to have stores, factories and offices in which all the people who have to live with the results of what happens to that enterprise participate in deciding how it works.

BILL MOYERS: That's the subject of your book, “Democracy At Work: A Cure for Capitalism.” And we will come back to it in a few minutes. Here is Jose from Naples, Florida and Kristin from Joplin, Missouri.

JOSE: Professor Wolff. On the last show you mentioned how you were against regulation. I agree with you on the most part that regulation has been a failure. What would be your alternative to regulation?

KRISTIN: Without regulation how do we respond to widening economic disparity in our society?

BILL MOYERS: You said last time you were skeptical about regulation because the regulated found ways to evade, overcome or negate it.

RICHARD WOLFF: Yes, skepticism is the politest way I know how to say this. I think that we have now learned in our society that regulating big corporations and regulating wealthy folks is an exercise in futility. It'll work for a while, but those folks have the incentive and the resources to work around it, to evade them.

BILL MOYERS: The hearings last week. JPMorgan--

RICHARD WOLFF: Morgan, yeah.

BILL MOYERS: --Chase continuing to--


BILL MOYERS: --take these risks.

RICHARD WOLFF: Stunning. It's as if the whole meltdown of 2008 and '09 hadn't happened, as if all the risk-taking can continue and all the massaging of the internal rules of the banks can be manipulated, all of that. It seems to me we've learned the lesson that regulation is usually coming too late after, in a sense, the disaster has happened. And then it is evaded and avoided and watered down. It doesn't work. And we have to learn the lesson.

So I would respond by saying, we have to make a more basic change. Instead of constantly coming too late to the regulation activity let's change the way decisions are made so we don't have to be constantly after people regulating them in this kind of sad effort that never quite succeeds. Let's change the basic decisions.

BILL MOYERS: I thought Glass-Steagall worked fairly well from the time it was enacted in the depression with Roosevelt to 1999 when Bill Clinton and Congress repealed it.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, I don't want to get into a dispute with you, Bill. I think--

BILL MOYERS: Go right ahead, everybody else does.

RICHARD WOLFF: I think there was a long history of evasion. In other words ways were found in the '60s and '70s long before the repeal, ways were found by banks setting up investment banks, setting up new financial institutions to get around if not the letter then certainly the intent of that kind of regulation.

When it was found possible politically first to weaken Glass-Steagall and then eventually to repeal it, well, that was even better. But basically the minute the regulation was set the regulated industries took it as a problem to be solved. Then they hired the economists like me, the accountants, the lawyers and all the other specialists to figure out how to get around it.

BILL MOYERS: And armies of lobbyists, let's face it.

RICHARD WOLFF: Armies of lobbyists to make sure that the laws get massaged and the rules get adjusted so that they can get around it. That's why we keep having financial scandal after financial scandal, hearings after hearings. After a while when you keep doing this you realize that even if you get some benefit (and I see your point), from a regulation for a while, it's only a matter of time. And now that the corporations have gotten really good at getting around it the time for them has been reduced and so we're back to the question isn't there a better way than letting them do their thing and coming late to the table with another regulation?

BILL MOYERS: Okay, here's Martha from Natick, Massachusetts.

MARTHA: I see a perfect storm coming. Capitalism is predicated on unlimited growth, but we live in a finite environment and we seem to have a dysfunctional democracy unable to resolve that contradiction. How do you see climate change and our diminishing natural resources such as fossil fuels and water impacting this crisis in capitalism?

RICHARD WOLFF: Capitalism is a system geared up to doing three things on the part of business: get more profits, grow your company and get a larger market share. Those are the driving bottom line issues. Corporations are successful or not if they succeed in getting these objectives met. That's what their boards of directors are chosen to do, that's what their shareholders expect. That's the way the system works.

If along the way they have to sacrifice either the well-being of their workers or the well-being of the planet or the environmental conditions, they may feel very bad about it, and I know plenty of them who do. But they have no choice. And they will explain if they're honest that that's the way this system works. So we have despoiled our environment in a classic way. That's why we have huge cleanup funds, that why we have so many problems. That's why we have to impose all kinds of costs on companies now to deal with this problem.

So I'm not very hopeful. I don't think this is a system that has a place in it for us to seriously deal with the limits to growth, with the need to preserve our environment, to take care of our health as a people because we have a system that pushes forward with a kind of intensity that pushes those issues to the side.

BILL MOYERS: Janet from Woolwich, Maine.

JANET: If you could be president with a cooperative Congress, what are the three most critical things you would do to ensure that we have a healthy economy that is sustainable, particularly in light of a growing aging population? Thank you.

RICHARD WOLFF: I would pick the following three. Number one, solve the unemployment problem. In a sense it's the most urgent one we have. If the private sector-- and here I'm paraphrasing Franklin Roosevelt in the '30s.

If the private sector either cannot or will not provide the work for millions of Americans who want the work, then it's the job of the government to do it because no one else is. And if I were president, I would follow Roosevelt and immediately create and fill millions, millions-- I'm talking 15 to 20 million jobs in the United States right away.

Number two, I would make it would some have called a “green New Deal,” that is the major thing these people would be doing would be to deal with the environmental crisis that we have, to change the way we use energy. For example (just to give one), to give us the proper mass transportation system that advanced countries in other parts of the world already have that we ought to have.

Millions of people could go to work producing that system and give us a way to move our goods and move our people around the society using less oil and gas with less damage of injury and death the way our car-driven system has, with less pollution of our environment. Here's a way to benefit people on many scales while we put to work those who want to work with the raw materials and tools that are available.

And the third thing I would do is take a page from Italy, yes, Italy who passed a law in 1985 called the Marcora Law which said the following wonderful thing. If you want employment you have a choice in Italy. You don't just have to collect your weekly unemployment check the way we do here in the United States, you have an option.

If you get together with ten other unemployed workers and you agree to do the following thing, the government will give you three years of your unemployment payments upfront, right now, in a lump sum. What you have to agree to is that together with at least ten other people you're going to start your own cooperative business which you all together work.

The feeling in Italy was if you give people a chance to own and operate their own business collectively they'll be more committed to it, more invested in it, more likely to make a go of it than simply collecting a check. And meanwhile they'll be producing things and they'll feel better about themselves. And they'll have a more productive role in the community. If you give everybody a vested interest in their enterprise, they work harder, they work better, because it’s theirs. They’re not just working for the man, they’re working for themselves, which is a dream Americans have had, way back from the beginning.

Sixty years ago the United States was less unequal than the capitalisms in Europe. Now we are more unequal. So yes, it is possible to have capitalism with a much more human face than the ones we have here in the United States and in Britain particularly where we have allowed things to go in a very different direction.

BILL MOYERS: But isn't Italy in a mess today? We all know about the euro crisis. Those governments are in trouble, austerity's being imposed throughout the Mediterranean area. We had this explosion with Cyprus-- explosion of fear with Cyprus being bailed out and the depositors in the banks having to contribute to the cost of bailing out. A tiny island threatens to bring the euro system down again.

RICHARD WOLFF: Absolutely, and that Cyprus story is extremely important. Even though it's a very small country and people might not pay attention because it is small. Here is the austerity program of raising taxes and cutting government spending, taking a qualitative new step to help bail out a capitalism that hasn't worked in Europe and that has crippled this little country of Cyprus.

The step taken to try to fix the problem is to literally reach into the private, insured bank accounts of people in the local banks in Cyprus and take money out of it to pay for fixing this broken system. For all working people, and not just in Europe, here in the United States, too, this should be a wakeup call if you still need one that we're in a situation where the most dire, unexpected, unimaginable steps are being taken to fix a system that keeps resisting being fixed so that we are required now to dip into people's checking accounts and literally take the money away.

BILL MOYERS: Richard, one of our viewers, Antonia Murrero asks, "Student loan debts are overwhelming me and many others. What does Professor Wolff think would happen to the economy if those debts could be forgiven in personal bankruptcy? Is that even possible?" he asks.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the law in the United States specifically prevents you from using bankruptcy to erase your student loans. Bankruptcy does allow you to erase other kinds of debts if you can't pay them. But the student loan system was set up to prevent that. So students are in a very specially bad place by virtue of this.

We've never before done this. In our history as a nation we've never before required college students to take anything remotely like this level of debt. We're still-- we're requiring students to accumulate huge amounts of debt to get bachelor’s degree, let alone more advanced degrees, at the same time that we offer the graduates the poorest job market and prospects in a generation. That's a one-two punch.

You have to borrow more than you can afford to face a job which will not allow you to ever pay it off, hence this person's very intelligent question. How is this going to work? We've solved a problem in our society, how to educate the next generation. And let me tell you, this is an important matter. We economists believe that the single most important factor shaping the future of any economy in the world including the United States is the quality and the quantity of the educated trained labor force it produces.

College and universities are where we do that. If we're crippling an entire generation with debts they cannot support and jobs that will not encourage them to continue in their studies we are as a nation shooting ourselves in the foot going forward. It's a demonstration of the dysfunctionality of our system.

And then the question comes could we forgive the students' debts? Well, it's an interesting idea. But how then do you go to the people who can't afford their credit card debts or their home debts or their mortgage debts-- they're all hurting. And the students have a special claim, I give them that. And we need those students, I understand it.

But we have to go at the root of a society which allows unspeakable wealth to accumulate in the hands of a tiny minority while condemning an entire generation of students to a set of burdens. We don't want them to have those burdens. We need what they can produce for us as a society.

BILL MOYERS: But what does this young woman do who says she's overwhelmed by her debt?

RICHARD WOLFF: Many students are not aware that they actually have some ways to help them. But the more broad answer I would give you is you need a social movement. If there were masses of students saying, "This is intolerable," and saying it loudly and saying it publicly, peacefully for sure, but making it clear, then the powers that be would begin to realize that there are millions of students, upward of 15, 16 million people go to colleges and universities in the United States. You're talking about a very well educated constituency. If they were organized and mobilized you would begin to get the response of dealing with their crises much more effectively than what we have now.

BILL MOYERS: Here's a synopsis, Richard, of a lot of similar questions that bring us to your book, Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism. A viewer who identifies himself as a longtime fan of Dr. Wolff writes, "You're passionate about workers’ self-directed enterprises. Can you explain briefly why you think these are the way to save capitalism? Critics say your alternative may work in theory but not in practice."

RICHARD WOLFF: My point is that workers ought to be-- all of us who work in an office, a factory or a store—ought to be in the position of participating in the decisions governing that enterprise. And I do that not only because I believe in democracy. And let me say that if you do believe in democracy, it's always been a mystery to me why that democracy that you believe in doesn't apply to the place where you work. After all, five out of seven days of every week, most of your adult life, you're at work.

So if democracy's an important value it ought to be at your job because that's where you are most of the time. And democracy at the job means the following. If you have to live with the decisions that are made in a job, what you're producing, what technology's being used, what the health conditions of your workplace are, what's done with the fruits of your labor, literally whether your factor or your office continues, since you have to live with those decisions you ought to participate, the basic idea of democracy.

So I like the idea of cooperative enterprises because it fulfills my value commitment to democracy. Whereas a capitalist enterprise doesn't because it keeps all the decision making in a tiny minority. We all who go to work have to live with their decisions, but we don't participate in them, not even to speak of the community that has to live with the decisions.

But the second reason is I see concrete results coming from an enterprise that was run by the workers collectively, and let me give you a few examples. First, most of us believe that if the workers themselves made a decision that they would close the enterprise and move it to China, I don't think so.

I think that the whole running away of enterprises out of the United States was made possible because the decisions to close enterprises here and to open them in another part of the world where you could get away with paying workers much less was a decision that was very good for the folks who make the decisions, but not for the average workers there.

So if we had decision making made by the workers in place they wouldn't undo their own jobs and they wouldn't move. And that would make a very different economic system from the one we have today. Second example, suppose a technology was being considered by the corporate heads who make the decision, the board of directors, and it was one that wasn't safe, it created too much noise, too much air pollution, despoiled the water, whatever. If it's a bottom line decision of the typical sort the board of directors and the shareholders seeing profit using that technology might go ahead and use it because it's profitable and that's what they're called upon to do, make profits.

If the workers collectively made the decision knowing that they had to breathe that air, they had to hear that noise, they had to live with that water and so did their spouses and their children and their neighbors, I bet you you'd get a different decision because they would weigh the costs and benefits of that decision differently. And my third example, although I could give you many, Bill, if you want them.

The third example, when it comes to deciding what to do with the profits, suppose instead the workers themselves made that decision democratically, how do we divide the profits?

You think they would give a handful of top officials wild sums of money to buy $40 million apartments on Fifth Avenue while everybody else was having to borrow money to get their kids through school? I don't think so. I think that people collectively would distribute the wealth more to some than others for all kinds of reasons, but they would do it in a much less unequal way than we have in a capitalist system.

So I challenge all of those who are concerned with a more equal system, with less inequality, to come up with a better way of achieving it than having workers be in a position to make the decisions as to how we divide the profits because that is the single most important determinant of the inequality of income in our society.

BILL MOYERS: But how do you answer this viewer? "In 1994 when United Airlines was on the brink of financial collapse a deal was made creating the biggest employee-owned company in the US. In 2002 the airline filed for bankruptcy."

RICHARD WOLFF: My answer is the following and it's very important. For workers to own something is one thing. For workers to become the directors of their own enterprise is something else. Worker ownership means for example, and we have lots of examples both in the United States and around the world, that the workers become in a sense shareholders. They are the technical owners.

But if the workers who become owners, and I'm not against that, but if the workers who become owners don't change the way the enterprise is operated it remains a capitalist enterprise. It still has a board of directors, a handful of people who make all the decisions. It's true that the workers may vote for who those people are, but they've left the structure of the enterprise in the old form, hierarchical, top-down. That's what was done in United Airlines. I was involved in that. I actually know.


RICHARD WOLFF: They called me in at a couple points to participate in some of the discussions, the International Association of Machinists, which was the union that was part of that. So they left the old capitalist structure, they weren't willing to go beyond saying, "We, the workers, become owners, but we leave the running of the enterprise, the directing of it, the day to day decisions in the old form made by the old experts." Part of a movement away from capitalism to a cooperative enterprise requires that the people of the United States stop believing that the folks at the top have some magical entitlement to give them that position.

BILL MOYERS: I think most of them have, if journalism and the social science surveys are reporting what's actually going on out there.

RICHARD WOLFF: Yeah, and I think that there has to be a change. I think most Americans have to recognize that the folks who run our enterprises, they had to learn how to do that. And we can all learn how to do that. It's the old argument in a sense that comes out of our history.

BILL MOYERS: Here's a viewer named Jeff chiming in. "Dr. Wolff, can you please give a concrete, not academic or theoretical explanation, of how you would apply your employee-run business model to a McDonald's, Wal-Mart, a hospital or JPMorgan Chase?"

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the answer is best given not as a hypothetical but to describe an enterprise which is large like all of those are, which has done this.

BILL MOYERS: There's a film called Shift Change, about the cooperative efforts. And we'll provide a link to that.

RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the example I'm going to give is a company in Spain. It's called Mondragon, the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation. And a little history may interest folks. It was started in the middle of the 1950s by a Catholic priest in the north of Spain in the Basque area just south of the Pyrenees Mountains.

It was a time of terrible privation in Spain after the World War II and the Spanish Civil War. There was terrible unemployment in this area and the Catholic priest decided that one way to deal with unemployment was not to wait for a capitalist employer to come in and hire people but to set up cooperatives. And he began with six parishioners in his Roman Catholic church to start a co-op.

Okay, this is 1956. Let's fast forward to 2013. That corporation now has over 100,000 employees. It has been a success story of gargantuan proportions. It is a family of co-ops, within this large corporation. In most of these co-ops the workers make the decisions of how this cooperative works.

So let me give you an idea of how successful they've been. They partner with Microsoft and General Motors in their research labs because Microsoft and General Motors want to tap into their creative way of running a business. They have a rule that nobody can get more than six times what the lowest paid worker in an enterprise gets.

The typical situation in a major American corporation is that the top executives gets 300 or 400 times what their lowest paid worker does. So they have solved the equality problem in a dramatic way for 120, roughly, thousand people. There's a concrete example of how you can make a cooperative democratically run enterprise successful, growing and becoming a powerful community force.

There is Arizmendi, the name of that priest in Spain, there's the Arizmendi Bakeries, six of them in the Bay Area that are all run as cooperatives. And they run it as a worker-directed enterprise. They've been very successful. Their commitment, number one, is not profit. Their commitment, number one, is not growth. Their commitment, number one, is to their people.

BILL MOYERS: Which brings me to a question from another viewer. "How do you move to this alternative you're talking about and writing about without strong unions? Union membership is down to its lowest level since 1936 when Franklin Roosevelt was president. And can you do this without increased strength among unions?"

RICHARD WOLFF: A union in its negotiations with an employer currently is limited in most cases to asking for better wages, better working conditions. Imagine with me for a moment what it would mean if the unions developed a new strategy. Let's call it a two-track strategy.

On the one hand you continue bargaining with your workers for better conditions from your employer. But on the other hand you do something else. You begin to train workers to become able to run their own enterprises and to have a whole new bargaining chip when you confront an employer. Many unions over the last 30 years have been confronted by a company that basically comes and says the following. "We're thinking of leaving Cincinnati, Sheboygan, Detroit, whatever. We need to get some concessions from you.

"We won't leave if you give us wage give backs, lower benefits, all the usual things, or else we'll leave." The union doesn't know what to do, is terrified, doesn't want to call the bluff because not sure it is a bluff, et cetera, et cetera, so eventually the union caves. That has been the history over and over again.

Imagine a union that had been able to say to these folks, "Okay, if you leave rather than coming to a reasonable accommodation with us, we are going to set up an enterprise right here. The factory you leave we will occupy. The jobs you don't pay us to do we will do for ourselves. And you will be located in China bringing goods back here, but we'll continue to produce goods here and let's see which goods the American working people will buy."

BILL MOYERS: But they will need capital to do that.

RICHARD WOLFF: Yes. And the question is where would the capital come from?

BILL MOYERS: The question is where will the capital come from?

RICHARD WOLFF: Good. The answer is, where the capital come from, there are several possibilities. The first possibility is the United States government. The United States government has the money, needs to do something for our unemployment problem and here's a way to do it because as the Marcora Law in Italy that I mentioned earlier illustrates there's a governmental and a social interest in doing this. This is a better way to solve the unemployment problem than giving people a dole for months or years at a time during which time they lose their job connections, they often lose their skills.

This is a much better solution, giving them the startup money to begin small, medium size enterprises that they will have a great interest in making successful because it's their future, it's their wellbeing that's at stake and it's their collectively owned and operated enterprise.

Well, why in the world don't we have a cooperative business administration providing startup money and technical help so that these kinds of enterprise, particularly helping unemployed people, could begin not only to help them and to help our economy but again to provide that freedom of choice for Americans so we can all see how these enterprises work and make a collective decision whether we'd rather have an economy more of them than of the old capitalist type. And again I think that the capitalists would be surprised by how many of us would choose that other route. And that would be a way to get it going.

BILL MOYERS: This is all very provocative and very controversial. And very imaginative. We'll have you back at this table before the season is over. But in the meantime I look forward to our live chat on this coming Tuesday at 1:00pm Eastern Time.

RICHARD WOLFF: Good. I look forward to it as well.

BILL MOYERS: So make a note, Richard Wolff will be responding to you directly, without the middleman, in a live chat at our website, You can start submitting your questions now at the website or on our Facebook page. Again, Tuesday, March 26th, 1 pm, eastern time. Meanwhile, to mark the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq – fought at a cost that continues to mount – you can go to our website for a link to our much-discussed documentary, buying the war. That’s at I’ll see you there and I’ll see you here, next time.


Watch By Segment

  • Sheila Bair Takes on the Banks

    Bill takes a close look at avarice, banks, and capitalism — the ABCs of economic inequality — with insight from Sheila Bair and Richard Wolff.

    Air Date: March 22, 2013
    Sheila Bair Takes on the Banks
  • Richard Wolff on Curing Capitalism

    Bill takes a close look at avarice, banks, and capitalism — the ABCs of economic inequality — with insight from Sheila Bair and Richard Wolff.

    Air Date: March 22, 2013
    Richard Wolff on Curing Capitalism

What Has Capitalism Done for Us Lately?

March 22, 2013

Sheila Bair, the longtime Republican who served as chair of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) during the fiscal meltdown five years ago, joins Bill to talk about American banks’ continuing risky and manipulative practices, their seeming immunity from prosecution, and growing anger from Congress and the public.

Also on the show, Richard Wolff, whose smart, blunt talk about the crisis of capitalism on his first Moyers & Company appearance was so compelling and provocative, we asked him to return. This time, the economics expert answers questions sent in by our viewers, diving further into economic inequality, the limitations of industry regulation, and the widening gap between a booming stock market and a population that increasingly lives in poverty.

Learn more about the production team behind Moyers & Company.

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  • Anonymous

    Sheila Bair is not being a very good plutocratic-corporatist. Apparently she’s a good old fashion Eisenhower conservative, and not a modern GOP plutocratic-corporatist.
    Thanks for bringing onto your show a level-headed responsible Republican, Bill.

  • SustainbleFuture

    The only thing preventing the Co-operative type of business model is unenlightened irrational self-interest, a.k.a. greed. Entrepreneurs FREELY CHOOSE to charter their corporations as hierarchal, non-democratic, top down organizations. They CHOOSE not to share the wealth, the power, or the profits. They CHOOSE this because they believe they are special, elite, “better than” the workers they employ. The fact is they may even be correct that they have more intelligence, more education, or a unique imagination that qualifies them to be rewarded. Bus usually, they just have more capital. If control of capital = merit, then we are doomed. We can all freely choose to set up our corporations using the Mondragon model, why don’t we?

  • Leon Letto

    Directly related to Mr. Wolff’s comments on cooperatives and why they are successful are the way Ernesto Sirolli talks about starting companies. Everyone has a different skillset and when you bring people with different skillset’s together and force them to make decisions which are good for everyone, not just certain individuals, companies flourish. . 80% of companies started with his strategies are still alive 5 years later vs. the Chicago boys teachings of “do it all yourself and win” where 80% are dead after 5 years. Please watch and talk to this man who has made such a difference in so many peoples lives. Obviously the american banks and large corporations who profit from our way of starting companies don’t want you to hear this but somehow the message has to get out. I wish I had this information when I started my first business 20 years ago.

  • Anonymous

    Wolff mentioned that we have allowed unspeakable wealth to accumulate in the hands of a tiny minority. In my opinion this is the only economic problem we have. That, and the power that goes with it. By allowing monopolies to reform, we have made the whole premise of capitalism a joke. The head of the Department of Justice recently said that corporations in America are too big to regulate and cannot be held accountable for criminal activity. Bust the monopolies and subject 7-figure incomes (earned or not) to the Kennedy tax rate.

  • PaulAndrewAnderson

    Richard Wolff is referring to consensus decision making, which is NOT the paradigm being taught from K-12 through the University’s in North America. This is why it will not likely happen, because the masses would effectively have to first be disenculturated. This is (in part) why the Fed’s fund mass education to begin with; not only as Capitalist indoctrination, but to make debtors of the masses, for it is with debt that you control people. For example, the IRS can seize the homes of homeowners who fall behind on taxation (thus, the gov’s interest in home financing and ownership), and they can garnish your wages (thus, the preference of employees over independents). However, they cannot (proverbially) squeeze blood from a turnip. If you rent, work for cash, and buy with cash, they have no leverage, just as its been with millions of non-resident workers, here illegally in the USA. For centuries this form of debt control has existed; it is called being an indentured servant.

  • Anonymous

    Take the money from a financial transaction tax to start a bank/financial services coop where it’s mission is to direct those funds to providing the capital for new coops…

  • davidp

    Hey, what if these bankers and Wall Streeters are Empire builders like the early and middle Age Kingdoms (in Europe & Britain) who created their own coinage and used the sword for their authority and power over the common folk. Just a thought.

  • ccaffrey

    I respectively submit again that you REALLY need to continue this discussion with Dr.Gar Alperowitz. There are already examples of larger scale cooperatives already up and running, notably the very successful Evergreen Cooperatives founded in some of the poorest neighborhoods in Cleveland. The Democracy Collaborative, which Dr. Alperowitz co-founded in 2000 was intimately involved with the establishment of that economic development movement. Here is the website for the Collaborative. I heard Dr. Alperowitz in Austin recently. It blew my mind! This site has information on possibilities for startup capital, organizational structure…tons of useful information.

    I’ve had some engagement with co-op businesses or living communities, but nothing on the scale of what is being developed here. I am furious at the idea of corporations holding us all hostage, making us subsidize utilities etc in our communities for the “honor” of luring them back to pay us whatever they choose, for however long they decide to stay. I think people have just been discouraged, thinking they, individually, don’t have all the skills necessary to run their own business. But, together, we DO have all the skills necessary. This is taking our democracy AND our economy back. I love it. Local people, local jobs, shared vision, power and responsibility.

    Thank you, Bill, for getting this conversation started here. It’s a relief looking forward to some viable alternatives, rather than alternating between anger and despair at the state of our nation.

    Ok, one more time, PLEEEEEZ add Dr. Alperowitz into this dialogue! Thanks and blessings on ya!
    Here’s the link:

  • ccaffrey

    oops. link is at the bottom of my previous post

  • ccaffrey

    When was the last time you heard a business owner whose business failed say, “I was a lousy businessman. It was my fault.” The default is to blame labor. Please see my post above. There are very successful co-op businesses already up and running. Go to the link for the Democracy Collaborative. Very exciting and informative!! It has links to some of those cooperative collectives as well.

  • john torque

    cuz most ppl dont know about it. they certainly dont teach it at most schools cuz none of my university friends know about it. capitalism has a strong grip on the system. most ppl arent even rational thinkers; they dont question their lives enough to c how ridiculous individualism and capitalism are as a means to gain freedom.

  • john torque


  • Anonymous

    Obama likes Reps – he couldn’t do better than make Sheila Bair Sec. of the Treasury …

    What was interesting was the contrasting styles between the 2, Bair and Wolf – Bair believes in regulation, Wolf does not, though both I think think that the economy and its institutions are there to serve the people and not vice-versa.

    I find myself siding with Bair for a couple of reasons. Wolf’s objections seemed to amount to “what’s the point, corps always evade them” but as Bair points out a significant problem is that the regs just aren’t enforced – the agencies are captive to those they regulate and consider them, and not the public, their clients. But this is a function of who runs them – and when you appoint the wolves to run the hen house, obviously they will not do so in the interest of the chickens. Does Wolff really think his system of co-ops will obviate the need for regulations? I think it would have been very interesting to have the two of them on together ….

    Wolff mentions, and promotes, the idea of the Green New Deal – the centerpiece of Jill Stein’s platform as Green Party Pres. candidate in ’12. Methinks its time to have her back on, as well …

    Both guests seemed to suggest that we need a culture change in gov’t in order to get where we need to go. The way to get such a change is to change the personnel who run the show – If you want decent regulators, you have to appoint folks who are not part of the financial “culture”, who haven’t been through the revolving door (sorry, Sheila, but i think White will be a “disappointment”) – If you want decent admin/leg you have to elect folks who have not been bought – who will shut that door to the folks who show up with big checks in hand – It must be done, It can be done, we can do it, and it is way past time we did … Then you can get decent regulation with enforcement, then you can get the policies to facilitate worker co-ops …. then and only then ….

  • SustainbleFuture

    Individualism and capitalism are both good. There is no society without the individual. The morality of capitalism is to reward those with the most merit. The issue is not that individualism or capitalism are ridiculous, together they maximize freedom and potential. The issue is that ppl think they know something they don’t. Freedom without justice is nothing. Liberty is the combination of freedom and responsibility. Capitalism is like a fire, a tool, it can warm your house and cook your food, or it can burn you up. It must be harnessed, restricted to specific places where it can do good, else it will burn the house down. Today capitalists think that they earned their wealth, but they did not. They believe that they have merit, and they don’t.

  • Silence Dogood II

    A repetition of the previous Sheila Bair interview and of the financial crisis. I am not complaining. The repetition is needed to constantly remind us the crisis remains in effect and will continue to be so until truly meaningful is enacted and enforced. The ‘Whale Trades’ report from The Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations confirms this. And I would recommend it as a ‘must read’ for all who care where the financial community continues taking our country. Senator Levin and his team have done a tremendous service for the nation with this report. It would be great if Bill could get the senator to do an interview.

  • Anonymous

    Or is it,,,What has capitalism done to us lately,

  • Anonymous

    Both Bair and Wolff base their solutions on the assumption that they or the ‘people’ have the political power to either reform the system, as Bair suggests or change it almost completely, as Wolff would have it. Of the two, Bair appears to realize (implied in her opinions on Todd-Frank) that, in fact, it is the corporations that now possess that power. Will they relinquish it or even a part of it? I think most of you know the answer to that. Bloomberg gave his answer with ‘his’ blue army lead by the ‘white shirts’ and the ignominious defeat of OWS. Barack Obama answered it with the humiliating treatment of Jill Stein.

  • Nakaii Koyoda

    Capitlalism is grounded to earth, deception a tool of greed ect… Spiritism is freedom of Choice , being HUMAN , Bless by the Earth ( your Grandmother ) and food grown of EARTH is the gift of your mother ( Earth) LIVEING FOOD and Remenber truth starts from the Heart up, women way of representing Absolute the NEW way of instant Grace vs, from the mind down, bent with Fear and Judgement of old karma of mans bygone days of old thinking. Blessing to the New Age of Change and GOOD News to the Women of the World , your in Charge? Of the Changing of the old Guards ( good old boys) blessing…..

  • Migo77

    FIRST define terms (I know that no one will read this): Capitalism is an economic system based on the private ownership of capital goods and the means of production, with the creation of goods and services for profit. Elements central to capitalism include capital accumulation, competitive markets, and a price system.

    There are multiple variants of capitalism, including laissez-faire, welfare capitalism, and state capitalism. Capitalism is considered to have been applied in a variety of historical cases, varying in time, geography, politics, and culture. There is general agreement that capitalism became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism.

    Economists (including political economists) and historians have taken different perspectives on the analysis of capitalism. Economists usually emphasize the degree to which government does not have control over markets (laissez-faire), as well as the importance of property rights. Most political economists emphasize private property as well, in addition to power relations, wage labor, class, and the uniqueness of capitalism as a historical formation. The extent to which different markets are free, as well as the rules defining private property, is a matter of politics and policy. Many states have what are termed mixed economies, referring to the varying degree of planned and market-driven elements in an economic system.

    In the 20th century defenders of the capitalist system often replaced the terms capitalism with phrases such as free enterprise and private enterprise and capitalist with investor or rentier in reaction to the negative connotations sometimes associated with capitalism.

    The term capitalism, in its modern sense, comes from the writings of Karl Marx.

  • Migo77

    I also think the title of the show is a fallacious, slanted, agenda loaded premise. How could the show have been titled in a neutral way so as to present the subject without bias? YOU have benefited from capitalism when you drive your car, put food in the refrigerator, gasoline in your car, shop for your groceries, take your prescription medications etc., etc. Come on people, think.

  • Mary Kimberlin


  • Enopoletus Harding

    Answer: Better electronics.

  • Paul Maher

    Hello Mr Moyers,
    Economic problems? What happens when the $4,000,000,000,000 dollars doesn’t have to be spent.

    What then?
    What do you think of Cold Fusion? They sure like it at MIT. See what Professor Hagelstein has done on his desk for the last year and a half. Check out the relationship between Brillouin Energy and SRI and Michael McKubre. And take a look at what Lockheed is doing at the Skunk Works and how they are putting a 100 Megawatt generator on an 40′ trailer. I am a big admirer of yours. Slow to anger and quick to see what’s going on. For the latest on the subject visit

    Thanks for the time, Paul D. Maher

  • Anonymous

    Question for President Obama: Is Jamie Dimon still your favorite banker?

  • Pat Elgee

    Those huge profits are not necessarily earned. We need laws to protect pensions. Look at how Bain Capital and Romney closed businesses. It was bad enough that a business had to close and people become unemployed because a company could not survive. It happens. However, it was unconsciencable that the raiders had the company “borrow” money from the retirement penions of the people to pay themselves, have the company declare bankrupcy, then they walk off with millions, leaving the workers not only unemployed but without their pensions that they saved over their lifetime.
    That Romney helped a handful of people from “his church” did not balance the thousands of people he robbed of their pensions.
    That this theft is legally allowed in this country is a national disgrace that must be stopped. Laws need to protect pensions from corporate raiders. People should choose to have their accounts earn simple interest or be invested in stock, and they should be insured.

  • Dh Fabian

    Reality: Not everyone can work, and we don’t have jobs for all who desperately need them. What should we do about them? The US has shipped out a massive number of jobs in recent decades, while increasing the number of people in absolute need of jobs. Our response to fellow citizens in need: “Drop dead — but not in public.” Millions of us are a single job loss from losing absolutely everything, with no way back up. Once you lose your job, you have the opportunity to see the ugly side of the American character that we rarely talk about. With that in mind — what should we do about all those who can’t work or don’t have jobs? (Note: Promises of jobs are nice, too, but you can rent a room with them.) Why would anyone want to risk their lives for a country that will spit on them if they lose the game of job roulette?

  • Anonymous

    “Is there some way we can reinstate “Glass-Steagall” and work from its regulations?” said Alice to the White Queen.

  • Anonymous

    That’s the point. They’re thinking, you’re looking for excuses.

  • Anonymous

    Could Dimon be prosecuted for his reckless behavior and obstruction by blocking vital information from bank examiner?

  • Pat Elgee

    Well, Karl Marx thought that socialism was a better choice because capitalism was running rampant at the time. The rich were getting super rich and the poor worked in factories untold hours for pennies. The labor unions and labor laws began to make a change.
    Today the large corporations buy Congressmen and exemption from fair laws. Call it unconstitutional bribery or political donations, but the corruption is widening the division of wealthy and the working man, or perhaps the unemployed man.
    Look at any graduating class and tell me how many students may never get a job. Then let’s guess how long it will take for them to get “creative” to earn a living.

  • Hikecyclephoto

    “Gasoline in your car”? If society functioned the way it should, with businesses paying the true cost of business, instead of the fossil fuel and nuclear industries externalizing nearly all their costs aqs worker illness, injury and death, public health and environmental catastrophes, we’d all be filling up at the outlet with electric cars run on renewable energy. Duh!

  • John Eastlund

    A couple years ago I went to the yearly book fair that they have on the streets in front of the state capitol in Austin, Texas. It’s a big deal that lasts a few days. Five historians who had written books about the 19th Century in America were on a discussion panel. They pointed out that America didn’t become a Democracy (by more voter groups other than white male landowners getting enfranchised) or become Capitalist (ie. robber barons) until late in the 19th century. Then they stated something that should be obvious in retrospect but never gets talked about. CAPITALISM AND DEMOCRACY ARE INCOMPATIBLE! They’re always in a tug-of-war with each other. Perhaps Bill Moyers could explore that theme in depth.

  • PhillyDissent

    I like the idea of the US supporting cooperatives, but one must be realistic in considering the oppositional forces that would prevent such a program from occurring (e.g., politicians supported by corporates, libertarians etc.) A better bet to funding these cooperatives would simply be through crowdfunding from both donations (kickstarter) and micro-loans (Kiva.)

  • David Eddy

    The crisis of capitalism is brought to you by the corruption of government, religion and moral principles.
    What capitalism has done for us lately is steal from the poor and give to the rich who are no longer concerned about the welfare of this nation.
    The short term advantage to the wealthy will poveritize the nation’s working people and undermine the stability of the nation.
    The inability of the demand side of economics to support the supply side of economics as well as all the other needs of the nation will cause the economy to collapse as well as end the wealth of the nation.
    Because the situation that exists today can only be changed by the generation of the transition to a better way of doing things; it is necessary that a state of emergency be declared and new regulations set in place to stabilize the economy by seeding funds that bring wages up to the cost of living, Stabilize prices and invest in competitive manufacturing.
    A balanced budget should be a matter of balancing the supply side of economics with the demand side of economics so that all of the transactions required to support the nation’s needs are met. The demand side of economics must have the necessary funds to pay for whatever it needs to support a quality life for its people. Both the demand side of economics and the supply side of economics must have sufficient funds to accomplish the yearly Gross Domestic Product.
    I would think that other nations that provide funds to this nation so that they get good returns on their money that is secure would be funds available to invest in our nation. These funds would add to the budget not subtract from the budget. What do you think?

  • HueLong123

    In an age of globalization and weakening national sovereignty, could we massively tax the rich and corporations — even if we wanted to? It seems there are barriers to taxation that did not exist in FDR’s day.

  • Jack Lohman

    Capitalism is great. “Crony capitalism” is our problem. Politician crooks willing to take cash bribes and give away taxpayer assets in return. All to stay elected. It is NOT the lobbyist’s fault, though they contribute. But the ultimate; the top guy. Congress! Public funding of campaigns is the ONLY solution, and BEFORE they take the county totally down.

  • socialmedic

    Deregulation paved the way for control by crony capitalism. Duh, trickle down theory, deregulation, monopoly … all failed the USA in the past. That is WHY the regulations. Reagan sold this baloney to the public who have voted for it and believed in it ever since. The public would scorn and character assassinate and destroy anyone who voiced objections. We will have to go back to the rural south living conditions before people wise up. Then it will take another century to undo what the morons of this country let happen over the last 30 years. So many of our lives wasted and ruined by this idiocy.

  • Socialmedic

    They teach it in schools all right … in the sociology department, not at the business school. That is the few sociology departments that have survived the right wing onslaught on education. There is no small wonder why fascists do not want their behavior studied as a group.

  • BeachbikerCA

    Hey– I dropped the ball on that last comment thread (last week?)– wanted to say more. Sorry– had to haul buggy across the country for St Patty’s in Key West, an annual thing of mine. Way too many “annual things” going these days! The hazards of the so-called “Golden Years” (lol!) And this Internet stuff is a working definition of “New York minute” anyway… Maybe I’ll catch up with you again– you’re a righteous dude and someone good to converse with. An increasingly rare thing. Stone crab claws and beer for breakfast, now for a mosquito-free bike ride through the Glades. Life is good (today, at least)… Cheers!

  • Mike Gramig

    Like every human endeavor, our economic system needs rules and limits within which it can perform its balancing of societal resources. I think Wolff identifies a key problem with the capitalist system as it operates today – an inappropriate and perverse incentive system.

    I do not know exactly where to draw the line, but incomes of managers and officers of companies cannot range to 400+ times the average employee’s income. This destroys the common vestedness in the enterprise that it needs to coalesce.

    Many feel that it needs to be tied to a proportionate share of productivity gains. Clearly looking at the last 30 years, a more equitable share of the productivity gains over this period would have preserved the vitality of the middle class.

    I have seen 50 times the average worker’s income proposed. I tend to feel that some evidence indicates that a multiple of 10 times would preserve the incentives built into the capitalist/market economic system. Another criterion to beconsidered is what level of income provides a healthy median family income that serves as the engine of our economy. I would suggest as a taarget something around $100,000 current value, as the point at which a comfortable and adequate family income level is achieved. Of course, this is only a personal perspective and open to vigorous public debate.

    – Mike, Louisville, KY

  • Anonymous

    Well, thank you sir, i always enjoy a good conversation, but it is hard these days to get anyone to stick around long enough to have one – :)

  • Anonymous

    Shucks, doncha think it would be a good idea to just get rid of (and let me be clear, by this i mean, vote out) those politicians who are in the way? There would be a lot of other benefits to this as well, because the same pols who won’t fund the little folk are the same ones that won’t tax the big ones, who get us into war, who “drill, baby, drill” and all that other crummy stuff. The problem with solely relying on crowd sourcing, ISTM, is that it is a real hit and miss proposition …

  • Anonymous

    Well, just a little tweak – i would suggest that not until the early 20th Century did “democracy” via the franchise, reach all its citizens …

  • Anonymous

    Good comment! ISTM, as long as we require “able bodied, functional” humans to work in order to get the money they need to live, we have a responsibility to see there are enough jobs, in safe conditions, that pay enough. If private companies won’t do it, the government must – The funny part is, it is already doing so, but it can’t admit it and because it isn’t allowed to be discussed as what it is “make work”, we get, e.g., the idiotic continuation of paying megabucks to Lockheed-Martin for a plane that is outmoded that we don’t need and don’t even want – So guys like Schumer can pad his donors pocketbooks and keep jobs for constituents in his state. If it were just about jobs – ISTM it would be better to hire these folks and use their skills to make something actually useful – but we can’t talk about that, no can we …

  • Anonymous

    Methinks investing in “stock” is what got a lot of folks in trouble when the market went south after the “great recession” started. Why not increase the employers contribution to SS, remove the cap on income taxed for it, and tax cap gains, etc at the same rate – fortify SS to the point where “pension plans” are no longer needed – they are disappearing anyway, replaced, if at all, by these “401K” creatures that guarantee nothing and can be wiped out by “a bad hair day” on the stock market – put the funds in the SS accounts instead – don’t let “the Markets” get their hands on them …

  • Anonymous

    Today’s form of capitalism, sometimes referred to as “disaster capitalism” or “the cancer stage of capitalism”, or variations on that theme – recognized by many as a clearly dysfunctional economic model, would clearly, ISTM, be one we ought to seriously consider chucking (understatement of the year).

    So I suppose the question might be is there ANY form of capitalism that could be useful without going bonkers and eating us up in the
    process. Marx and his cohort apparently believe “NO!”, methinks that’s where Wolff is. Others, like Bair, methinks, think it can be “domesticated” and can serve a useful purpose if made so.

    That is why i would have liked to see Bair and Wolff at the same table – i think it would have made a very interesting discussion because both appear to be the sort of folk who could actually have such a discussion in a “rational” manner. I hope Bill will host such a tete-a-tete ….

  • Anonymous

    The corporations exercise their power through the legs they have bought – replace those legs with those who have not been bought, and who actually represent people’s interest and you have a very different outcome –

    So how can you tell – well ISTM that “follow the money” is a pretty good guide – if we follow the money there is a good chance we will elect no D/Rs to office – their parties are so dependent on and controlled by big money, as individuals they are routinely stifled if they even try to “buck the system” –

    3rd parties are “poor” for a very simple reason – corps will never fund a party that has made it clear it won’t dance to their tune – and because corps are the only ones with mega bucks to spend on such stuff as media, you will have to look around a bit more to find them – but do so, they are out there, and they have some much better ideas, programs and policies to offer …

  • Chiranjit Basu

    In norther Europe there a large long country called Sweden. Almost everything that Richard Wolff talked has in some for or another very successfully been practiced there. Work-place democracy, coop movements and enterprises, strong white and blue collar unions who went beyond just asking for raises. Government commitment to economic equality, high quality social services and so on. The result was a prosperous society with limited inequality and very high standard of living and a large number of world class enterprises. And they were also very sensitive to looking after their environment. I know. I have lived there of and on for the last 37 years. But somewhere in the nineties the neo-liberal market madness reached Sweden and what had been built over decades since WW2 has been dismantled and destroyed. Outsourcing, rampant unemployment (especially for the young), lowered standards of living, degraded social services, runaway inequality and all the ills we are so familiar with in the US. A program about how to take something that was NOT broken and fixing it in the context of what has been in your program with Richard Wolff would be a great case study! Thanks for the program.

  • Anonymous

    OK- so now we know – are Sen Levin and his (mostly) fellows going to actually DO anything about it? Are they going to chastise “fearless leader” for not setting his DOJ on them?

    Methinks we have pretty much known about the travesties wrought by Obama’s favorite banker, since at least the sketchy details of what made the “great bailout” “necessary” but we are told not only are the banks too big to fail, but the bankers are too big to jail.

    So Levins hearings are titillating, but amount, at this point ISTM, to bringing coals to Newcastle …

  • Regulator in Recovery

    This program was interesting. I just spent a year working at the Fed, and was deeply involved with Dodd Frank, the stress tests, and reviewing resolution and recovery plans. What Ms. Bair doesn’t mention is how many regulators are involved with regulating ONE bank… the institution I covered was regulated by the Fed, OCC, FDIC, FSA, FINRA, SEC, state banking regulators, and now the CFTC to regulate “commodities”, which includes swaps. To my horror, the bureaucrat that I worked for was in constant war with the FDIC, a truly dysfunctional relationship. The R&R plans that were submitted were trash, and the instructions provided by the FDIC were completely inadequate and incorrectly identified “critical operations”. I’m happy to be returning to the private sector, what I saw was embarrassingly BAD.

  • PhillyDissent

    Don’t get me wrong, I agree with you. But lets be realistic, we live in a democracy with those who hold differing opinions than ours. It also doesn’t bold well that people are fed misinformation about the importance of voter participation in all elections (general and primary.) As long as they say “my vote doesn’t count, why bother” …they will continue not to participate in key elections (most typically are not presidential.)

    My original comment is meant to bypass this and find an alternative, as I don’t see us magically coming to agreement on issues which in turn would removed from office those we find slowing things down. Indeed, relying on the crowd is hit or miss, but aren’t we relying on the crowd with voting as well?’s hit or miss just as well. We might get Elizabeth Warren, but we also might get Rand Paul in 2016. We might get a democratic majority in congress in 2016..or we might get a republican majority. Or get half and half. It’s all hit or miss. There is a risk with everything. At least with crowdfunding we can keep trying, figure out why the previous message didn’t work while others with similar messages did work (hence: take a look at 3D printers on Kickstarter: why do some fail, why do some succeed? It does come down to messaging/sale pitch etc.) Even then, those who fail, there are competitors who succeed and progress is made, slowly but surely. It’s not a perfect set up…but nothing is (or will ever be) perfect.

  • Carol Davidek-Waller

    Richard Wolff was (as usual) riveting. Fielding callers questions was a great way to guide the discussion.
    Compared to other guests (Matt Taibbi etc.) who have been delving into the financial crisis, I’m sorry to say Sheila Blair was a snooze. Her tolerance for corruption seemed nearly as high as our elected representatives and executive. d

  • Carol Davidek-Waller

    It’s the top down, heirachical structure that is the problem. The top dogs take care of themselves at the expense of everyone else and the majority have no power. Of those that seek power, too many are incompetent.
    It’s true of the corporate structure and thanks to power of great wealth, it’s true of what used to be our government.

  • David Eddy

    We need to get rid of the “Golden Rule” that those with the gold rule.
    By the way; what happened to all the gold buried at Fort Knox? The price of gold has gone up and the government has all that gold, if it is still there. There is no gold standard, so there is all of that gold to spend on new jobs and social security.
    Also, we need to remember that printed money is intended to provide the means to exchange goods and services not enslave the workers.

    THE DEFINITION OF MONEY: Money is any object or record that is generally accepted as payment for goods and services and repayment of debts in a given socio-economic context or country.
    Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Money is not a magic word; it is the means of exchange for goods and services and debt that the government is supposed to provide to maintain a just and equitable nation.
    Is that too much to expect?

  • Kah Zuhl List

    You and Moyers have it completely (and dangerously) backwards.

    It’s regulation – not *deregulation* – that “paves the way” for crony capitalism.

    It’s big government, not a deregulated free market, that does bailouts.

    It’s big government that imposes regulations that create artificial barriers to entry that provide fertile soil for the growth of large monopolistic corporations.

  • Kah Zuhl List

    A free market system’s incentive system is neither “inappropriate” nor “perverse”.

    If employee A can demonstrate he can bring his employer value X, and employee B can demonstrate she can bring her employer 50x X, it is entirely reasonable, appropriate, and just for their employer to offer Mr. A salary X, and Ms. B salary 50x X.

    What’s unjust is the likes of some outsider barging into a private transaction to tell the employer and Ms. B: “I don’t care how much value Ms. B can provide, I’m going to use the full power of the government to coerce an agreement in which she is paid lower than what she could demand in a free market. And if you don’t comply, I’ll take away your property using taxes or fines or I’ll put you in jail; and behind all this I’ll ultimately force you to comply by threat of force, because I have police and a military and you can’t overpower that.”

  • Dave Groh

    We have got to use the vote to change this. It is obvious, to me at least, that the GOP is on the side of the rich. The GOP wants to give tax breaks to the rich, tax subsidies to the oil industry, Medicare dollars to private health insurance. The GOP favors the SCOTUS decision that allows corporations to give mass amounts to political campaighn without even identifying themselves. In Wis. the GOP seems to accept giving donations to the State Supreme Court justices while they are hearing your case. That is wrong. Working people have been losing ground in their effort to have a good life and it will get worse if we do not stop it.

  • Dave Groh

    I am a working person. There are MANY more of us than there are of them. We need to vote out the people that are against us. There is an election on April 2 in Wis. vote–vote –vote.

  • David Eddy

    You have it wrong Kah Zuhl. Without regulation you have Chaos. This is the real world where people are not perfect and do what is in their own best interest. If you could write a check for any amount and someone else would cover the cost what would you do? Regulation provides a level playing field and rules to play by and they must be enforced or the game becomes survival of the fittest. How fit are you?

  • David Eddy

    How about this for an example Kah Zuhl?
    There is a supervisor who is the owner of the business son-in-law and sits at his desk all day and all he does is pick his nose all day. He gets 500X pay while the person who does his job for him gets 1X pay and his children go hungry.
    Would you like to be the person getting the 1X pay that is well below the poverty level?

  • Mary Previty

    I’d like a second economist’s opinion on the impact of the repeal of Glass-Steagall. It seems that the economy started devolving into abuse and chaos following its repeal wrt the housing market.

  • jldvt (J.L.DiMario)

    I’m wondering why my comment isn’t there. ??

    One thing missing: Richard Wolff didn’t place blame on Free Trade and it’s HUGE impact on jobs here in America and in other countries. When it came in in the early ’90s, I said to everyone, “There go our jobs!). And yes, there they went!

  • moderator

    I think the comment you are looking for, is on the “Richard Wolff on Curing Capitalism” page.

    Sean @ Moyers

  • Lovinmalamutes

    I really enjoyed this interview with Richard Wolff. He has the right of the situation. I am not one who believes “Capitalism” will always lead into socialism, or worse yet, communism.
    Why aren’t those in power jumping on this, and implementing some of it, so our economy isn’t blown apart by those very few with all the money.
    Regulation was a good/bad thing, and in some areas it prevented the businesses from becoming so big that their failure would impact the countries entire economics system. AT&T was considered by the court to be a monopoly when I was child, and they were ordered to split up their monopoly.
    Since then, many more businesses have grown beyond the size of AT&T, and are still growing. Their growth and monopolies DID almost topple our whole economic system a few years back, and “We The People” were forced to “Bail them out” as it was believed (according to our government) they would take down our country economically if they failed. The term coined for them was/is, “To big to fail”.
    Currently those very same businesses are back to business as usual , and using the same underhanded tactics that nearly toppled them to begin with. And “We the People” (whose money bailed their butts out of the fire) , are still being treated badly in mortgage loans, loans of any kind, and other financial areas.
    We The People are being fleeced continually by these bailed out companies, and it is reprehensible that it is being allowed!

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic show! I especially loved your chat with Richard Wolff. Finally, somebody who really “gets it” that we can have an economy that serves communities rather than corporate pyschopaths. For those who resonate with his views, I also recommend YES! Magazine. Check it out online.

  • Bernie

    Excellent exchange between Mr. Moyers & Dr. Wolff touching on radical yet common-sense logic that’s way off almost everybodiy’s radar. At the same time, and carrying that same logic to where it leads, I despair whether ANYONE will actually look at or comment about what seems so obvious to some, beyond being “the elephant in the corner of the room” or the battleship or Mt. Everest sitting there, the stranglehold RELIGION plays in all of this.

    I”m talking about your everyday, commonly accepted, rarely questioned, faith-based organized religion that pervades many nations on this planet, especially our good ol’ USA. So simple, yet such a profound stumbling block!

    Otherwise (sane?) millions (the majority?) who have been conditioned from birth to accept an ascending hierarchy of authority from their parents on up to god.
    Thats why nothing ever really changes…most people out there seem (and do) to believe that EVERYTHING out there in life is the immutable will of god, including our economic system. Why, to attempt to change it would be trying to thwart the very will of the creator of the whole universe, and (my God?!), the consequences would be a well-aimed lightening bolt, Hell itself or worse!
    In my humble opinion, this is the key roadblock to ANY meaningful change.

  • bruce stasiuk

    time for the torches and pitchforks.

  • Anonymous

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  • David Eddy

    Do you mean better application of electronics to the present economic system or changing the economic system to allow electronics to function more efficiently? My wife works at a bank and started in banking at the Federal Bank. I have also worked at a bank balancing all the branches and taking the work to the Federal Bank. The computer systems at the bank are always being updated to the latest electronic systems. What needs to be fixed is the flow of money through banks to the community through loans. Our bank does not loan money to anyone who cannot prove they have sufficient collateral to cover the loan. Our bank is very conservative. Because of the disparity between income and costs it is very difficult to maintain a balanced budget let alone sufficient collateral. The only people who have the necessary collateral do not need loans. Because of the disparity of income and collateral, money does not flow let alone provide a multiplier effect. The only solution to our present situation is more jobs and higher incomes. That is not inflation; it is common sense. Prices are going up and money available is static.
    We live in a dynamic society not a static society.
    The big problem with the economy is that the first principle of political science is, “never listen to anyone who knows what they are talking about”.

  • Anonymous

    Well, for what it’s worth, I don’t want either Paul or Warren – D/Rs are, ipso facto, at this point are all all inherently faulty ….

    In any case – kickstarting, as i understand it, relies on the market model – methinks that may be fine for commerce where it doesn’t really matter whether we get them or not. For things we really need, ISTM society at large should take them on and provide them. That’s where the political process is key, that is the process where society, in fact, does discuss the things it will provide.

    On kickstarting – you are correct, it all depends on the message and sales job – no discussion just vote with your bucks, maybe there’s something better that can and should be done, but we don’t know about it …

    In fact, that, ISTM, IS the problem with our democratic process as we practice it, we treat voting as a kickstarter project (or like a sporting event) – the folks with the money to fund it have an interest in seeing that their “product” is the one folks will vote for, whether it’s a good product or not (remember Obama got an award from an advertising group for having the best sales campaign in ’08, beating out Apple, etc.) and they are the same folk who have a great interest in you either a) believing your vote doesn’t count or b) believing that your choices are limited to A or B.

    I see where you are coming from, our electoral process has produced some rather dismal results, but insofar as kickstarting is seen as a substitute for the electoral process, i see it going in the wrong direction – we need to recommit to the electoral process in terms of researching the candidates and supporting the good ones.

  • Zappu

    Deregulation is a form of regulation. If you deregulate murder you are saying that government will protect murderers. whether you regulate or deregulate you are still expressing the authority of the government.

  • Zappu

    Wolff talks about cooperatives but he never outlines how a democratic cooperative would be structured. How would the leadership be chosen. In his examples of effective cooperatives he never discusses how they are structured. How they would be different from the United Airlines example. How is Mondragon different?

    For a left economist i find his explanations quite superficial. He kind of skims over deeper analysis. He either doesn’t have one or he he wants to dumb down the conversation.

  • Abraham Joseph

    The final truth is that after the demise of the Church+dynastic rule of the world in the pre-enlightenment era, mastery of the world has been taken over by the industry+democratic polity combine, post industrial revolution. Only the ownership of the world was changed hands ! Common man is still the old helpless ‘subject’ in our so called modern nations. Please share more on this calamity from our blog:

  • David Eddy

    The first step to solving the problem of being fleeced is to understand that Capitalism has to be controlled by socialism or the working people become slaves to their employers and monopoly will destroy the economy for a total melt down.
    The working people will only get what they are willing to fight for and at the present time too many people are to confused to know what to do. They need to ignore the distractions and demand that their needs be met. Workers either unit or they will live in poverty, corruption and pollution.

  • David Eddy

    The reason for government to exist is to regulate in order to provide justice and equity.

  • Gordon

    Adding a Japanese perspective to the ideas of Richard Wolf, in Japan for Sustainability Newsletter #127 Junko Edahiro and Naoko Niitsu say in their essay “One of the confusions caused by actions from the growth-oriented perspective is the collapse of business morals in order to profit… This is not because business people lack an ethical sense, but because they went too far in following business ethics guided by market principles, in other words, the pursuit of profit above all.”

    That statement is made within a discussion of Japan’s demographic and economic changes that may foreshadow our own.

  • Anonymous

    The repeal of Glass-Steagall was a factor however the striping away of regulatory power of Brooklsley Borne who was in charge of commodities & derivatives but thanks to Alan Greenspan, Larry Summers, Treas Sec Robert Rubin & Chris Dodd the derivatives market went unregulated. Greenspan stated the market would “police itself”. That did not work out real well. He also kept interest rates so low folks were buying houses they could not afford coupled together with Fannie & Freddie back up these junk mortgages we were on a collision course.. Barney Frank defended Fannie & Freddie right up to the month the Govt (taxpayers) had to take them over.

  • Anonymous

    Your economic story of Sweden was interesting.. The biggest point I got from it was the neo-liberals took over.. Their view of society is an idealist dream that never reaches its goal.. The formation of the ill devised Europe Common Mkt caused Sweden to loose its financial & economic soverinity thus we see the developments in many member states.. that used to be nations. Will the Euro survive is a big question.. Norway did not join & their situation is far better with there own currency. as well as Denmark

  • Anonymous

    One fact that is incorrectly stated is we have a Democracy… No folks we don’t we have a republic..Like Thomas Jefferson stated “If you can keep it.” We’re having a hard time with that part.because our federal govt is not enforcing the regulations on the books.. How many times have you heard of the govt blocking big mergers.. .ie Exxon-Mobil, JP Morgan Chase.. one can go on & on.. The last time a big company was broke up was A T&T.. How many bank Execs have been put in jail over the financial collapse … Why is Jon Corzine not being brought to trial ??? You see its not Capitalism that is so bad but bad govt. The corporations that folks rill about are owned by the [public in IRA’s 401k’s Pension funds etc..Many just like a coop??? What makes on think coops can be managed properly.. I’ve seen too many cases where management abuses their power there as well. There is greed thru out any system & only a concerned govt can control its abuse..

  • Anonymous

    That was one big story you made of Bain Capital & Romeny..I like to see your facts. The fact is one Steel co was going under & they bought it to try to save it & prolonged its life for 5-7 yrs.. How many companies & Jobs had they saved?? Just work into a Staples store & ask those folks. I think its unconsciencable that Jon Corzine left New Jersey deep in debt & manage GS Globe & made off with 1.2 Billions dollars of farmers hedge accounts. & has not been brought to trial.. He bundled 900,000 dollars for Obama’s reelection.. might that have something to do with it. Ask the midwest farmer who lost their crop fund hedge account…The Obama bail out of the auto industry cost the managers of Delphi,.(20,000 non union mbrs} all but 30% of their pension & many their jobs. The UAW’s pension fund was most of their jobs. There were no thousands of people had their pensions robbed by Bain Capital. Romney inherited a sum of money when his father died & he gave it ALL to charity. The last tax filing he gave 2 million to charities… Oh but he is a bad man… no just the wrong party I’m afraid

  • Anonymous

    Bair seems to well aware of the UNREGULATED greed that is in the banking system with its revolving door with Washington.. Prior to 07 we 9-10 big bank… after 09 merger etc we have 6 giant bank & dodd frank is not a bit interested in breaking them up.. but they try to convince the public that “too big to fail” is not a problem. Bair admitted that that has not been fixed..In 08… 65% of Wall St campaign money went to Obama so to say on party is pro wall st… They both are no matter what they say.. The Bankers are helping enforce Dodd Frank.. Anyone want to guess how that will turn out????

  • Anonymous

    I enjoyed your post.. if we could only get politicians who don’t take bribs..Are we dreaming???

  • Anonymous

    Well, all good things come out of a dream, ISTM, in one way or another – folks work to make their dreams come true all the time – doesn’t mean they will come true, but if we don’t work for them, guaranteed they won’t …

    Are there honest folk out there? Yeah, i think so – I’ll bet all of us know one or two – they do exist. And of those folk, there are probably even a few who believe it important to stay honest :)

    Part of the problem, ISTM is that we have decided that public service is not an honorable profession and honest folk don’t want to participate – but if we ever needed honest folk anywhere, we need them there …

    One of the reasons i mention Stein is that she is a physician by training who understands, for example, that you can’t just treat people in an office, give them some pills and send them back out into a milieu that made them sick in the first place …. There is so much more to health and well being than pills and machines. So she talks about practicing “political medicine” – our system is sick and needs to become healthy so we will be.

    I suspect she could have done well running in either major party but she chose to run as a Green because she knows a good part of what is making the system sick is all that money dumped into it – Greens won’t take corporate contributions – it’s all “small money” – which is why you don’t see them on TV, etc. It is very difficult to run any kind of a campaign that way, but it is the only honest way to do it.

    It is folks like Stein who give me hope, because they put themselves out there so folks can actually have real choices – it is up to us to choose them …..

  • Anonymous

    Its easy to form an idealistic view.. A hopeful attitude ..Than reality confronts us & knocks the wind out of our sails. Most of the negative reality come from the far left & right of both parties..they coupled with the media can sour folks on the govt.. Our republic is in need of some strong leadership.

  • brady

    It takes two to tango. You are pardoning the devil in this temptation scenario. The politicians are to blame because they have become slaves to corporate money – but lets be clear – it is the corporations that have used their wealth and power to rig this system and it’s their destructive pursuit of profit at all costs that have corrupted our politics and our social fabric. I agree public funding of campaigns is the answer to the problem, but it also contradicts your assessment of who is to blame, because there is no greater foe of public campaign funding, then the corporate lobbyists that you deem mere accessories to the murder of our democracy.

  • brady

    This is nonsense. Monopoly formation is inherent to the nature of capitalism. We had a lassez-faire gov’t at the beginning of the 20th century and it did not prevent the formation of cartels like Standard Oil – it took the gov’t to break up these trusts. The problem is not “regulation” per se, but “regulatory capture”; the only hope, however difficult, is to “re-capture” our democracy, and have a gov’t “of,by, and, for, the people” not the Hobbesian, libertarian utopia of a “deregulated free market” which, in reality, would merely be the liberty to starve.

  • Grant Kerber

    While I appreciate the power he envisions for unions, why doesn’t Wolff just advocate co-determination as used in Germany or Sweden? By giving labor a place in the management of the company, there’s no longer the antagonism between financial and labor interests, and compromises are easier to come by.

  • ccaffrey

    Some very essential work is being done by Democracy Collaborative. See the work of Gar Alperovitz who helped with the creation of the Evergreen Cooperatives in Cleveland. You should find resources you need there. I keep mentioning on my posts that Bill needs to have Gar on this show. He is really brilliant.