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BILL MOYERS: When Kumi Naidoo’s mother urged him to see God in the eyes of every human being that you meet, she was echoing a sentiment once expressed by Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who told the devout to “seek and find God in all things.” You may recall that Ignatius founded the Jesuits, and now there is a Jesuit pope, the first in Catholic Church history.

Last weekend, Pope Francis visited Sardinia, the Mediterranean island known for its white sand beaches and deluxe vacation homes owned by the rich and famous. Now Sardinia is blighted by closed factories and mines operating at low capacity. Thousands are out of work, including 50 percent of its young people.

Last year, in an effort to keep their jobs, workers in Sardinia barricaded themselves in front of a mine packed with almost 700 kilograms of explosives. One miner told the cameras, “We cannot take it anymore. We cannot. We cannot … Is this what we have to do?” And slit his wrist on live TV.

The pope met with some of those unemployed workers, including Francesco Mattana; 45 years old, married, father of three children, unemployed now for four years after losing his job with an alternative energy company.

Mattana told Pope Francis how unemployment, “oppresses you and wears you out to the depths of your soul.”

The pope was so moved, he put aside his prepared speech and talked spontaneously of the suffering he was seeing, suffering that “weakens” and “robs you of hope,” he said.

“Where there’s no work, there’s no dignity.” The consequence, the Pope said, of a system that has at its center an idol called money.

The crowd of 20,000 cheered. And when the Pope told them, you must fight for work, they cheered again, and broke into a chant that the pope heard as a prayer for work, work, work.

At that moment, Pope Francis was not just the head of the Catholic Church. Rather, he embodied the heart of a catholic cry for justice, small “c” catholic, a universal aspiration expressed in our country by the promise that life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is the birthright of every citizen.

Surely, that’s not hard to understand. What the richest parents want for their children is what the poorest parents want for theirs. Measure their aspiration, however, against the fact that more than 21 million Americans are still in need of full time work, many of them running out of jobless benefits.

The richest 400 Americans are now worth a combined $2 trillion, while new figures from the Census Bureau show that the typical middle class family makes less, less than it did in 1989, with roughly 46 million people living at or below the poverty line. With the exception of Romania, no developed country has a higher percentage of kids in poverty than we do. Yet the House of Representatives has just cut food stamps for people who don’t have enough money to feed themselves.

Listen. That sound you hear is the shredding of the social contract. And look at this heading above a piece in the current Columbia Journalism Review, “The line between democracy and a darker social order is thinner than you think.” If that doesn’t send a shiver down the spine, I don’t know what it will take to wake us up.

So Pope Francis and Kumi Naidoo speak the truth, in different accents and with different metaphors, but their message boils down to this, capitalism is like fire, a good servant but a bad master. If we don’t dethrone our present system of financial capitalism that rewards those at the top who then use it to rig the rules against even the most reasonable check on their excesses, It will consume us. And that fragile, thin line between democracy and a darker social order will be extinguished.

Bill Moyers Essay: Joblessness is Killing Us

September 27, 2013

In an essay following his conversation with Greenpeace International’s Kumi Naidoo, Bill Moyers links Naidoo’s courage in speaking truth to power with an account of the recent visit by Pope Francis to Sardinia, the Mediterranean island known for its beautiful beaches and palatial homes owned by the richest of the rich. Sardinia is now blighted by widespread joblessness — 51 percent of its young people are out of work — and as the pope heard the stories of desperation and deprivation, he threw away his prepared speech and decried a global economic system “that does us so much harm.” The story leads Bill to conclude that unless we “dethrone our present system of financial capitalism that rewards those at the top” while everyone else is struggling, “it will consume us” and democracy will be finished.

Producer: Robert Booth. Editor: Sikay Tang.

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  • Anonymous

    It isn’t just the loss of democracy that we need to worry about with the current excesses of capitalism, but we are doing ourselves and a lot of our co-habitants on Earth in. We need a total rethink of what it means to be a human Earthling in this 21st C. We also need to decide whether or not a mode of development that lets those who are so insecure and self-absorbed they need to use their bank accounts and toys to keep score about of their self-worth are entitled to destroy Earth’s capacity to support us. That is a variation of a theme of what happened on Easter Island … just on a global scale this time. We have so many alternatives and this is not “human nature”.

  • Anonymous

    ” against the fact that more than 21 million Americans are still in need of full time work” the quickest way to employ 8 million more of our fellow Americans is to enforce the 1986 immigration laws. deport the illegals, employment will increase and wages will rise. there should be no thought of amnesty unless linked to a massive jobs program.

  • melvin lafleur

    it costs about $12,000/person to deport someone. do the math.

  • Anonymous

    The wealthy will not give up their unearned position so easily.

  • strider367

    What capitalism? How many oil companies are out there now? This goes for all sectors of the world economy. For 30 years they have been merging, acquiring, minimizing. Now only a handful of people control this so-called capitalism. Price fixing and manipulation has become norm.

    Khrushchev would be proud, his prediction has come true…

  • Jack Adams

    Just seems those in power are pitting the poor against the poor. It is not the same capitalism we knew decades ago. There was a certain pride in bringing others along up the economic scale and the Middle Class did have community growth in mind. Now…the Congressmen sound like the Calipths of long ago, or the Christian Monarchs doing the “Imperial Improv”… slavery is alive and well. And my Conservative Right friends say; “Hey its business and that is what America is all about”. Sad, very sad.

  • MG

    Thank you Bill Moyers for these words, and tirelessly fighting to keep the flame of this knowledge spreading and growing.

  • moodymanitee

    Yes Bill, and why do you think it is that there is no big back lash, no movement from the people to do something about this inequality? Is it just too hard for us to be united? Too many smoke screens from the Tea Party et al? They just keep us busy with gay marriage and abortion as they keep taking all the money to their bank? Or do people just not believe that the game is rigged against us?

  • Bill Gilliland

    Yes, this is the same capitalism from years past. It is just the natural progression of capitalism when it is left to run amok, unchecked by elected officials it has, over time, purchased.

  • Anonymous

    I think Khruschev said we will give the west the rope to hang themselves. We seem to be doing a bang up job with our own rope. We will collapse just like the soviet union, when the majority of the GNP, goes to uncontrolled military, medical, and prison industrial complex greed and waste. It will all collapse with time, the greed is just too great. All the money floods to the top.

  • jim

    Money doesn’t grow on trees but apples do
    plants come from thin air and sunshine
    plant food in your front yard

  • Zensa

    you are entirely correct…”work for their own interests, or community interests…” So so true!

  • Anonymous

    Pope Francis needs to dig into the logic behind usury and the real results of interest-bearing money. There is a reason that was excoriated by every great wisdom tradition back to the Vedas. There is an inner coiled spring ticking time bomb logic in interest-bearing money that drives all kinds of human behavior and all these pathologies of which Pope Francis speaks. He needs to dig deeply into church law and history to get to this one.

  • Anonymous

    The debt-money system is what drives all this. It drives everything up to the top. There is 300 yrs of recorded history about how this kind of money system works. That is where we have to start. It imposes fake constraints. We have to explore alternative forms of money creation. This bank owned debt-money form of money, interest-bearing, is what is behind this terrible legacy of most of the last 500 yrs.

  • Leif Erik Knutsen

    Stop the ability of the chosen few to profit from the pollution of the commons and the “Fiscal Cliff” evaporates. The fundamental flaw of Western Capitalism is the ability of corporations, (also “People” now and since money votes, Government), to profit from free dumping of toxins if spread thin. Dilution is not the solution for pollution. “We the People” are fined for throwing a paper cup out the car window, but dump 19 pounds of toxins per gallon of fossil fuel consumed out the exhaust of commerce and you get subsidized with my tax dollars. The GOP do not Fund abortion. Fine. A precedent. Why must Progressives be forced to fund the ecocide of the planet? Corporations are “People” now, how come the special treatment? Privatized profits and socialized loses is a failed paradigm. Once in “subsidized” power the greed vermin will pull all stops to retain power as testified by current reality. This is class war indeed, however “We the People” are the oppressed.

  • Erik M Taylor

    The question, as I see it, is do we, as in “ALL OF US”, have the courage to confront our greed, our indifference, and our fear and to love each other by taking POSITIVE ACTION to save and re-create our magnificent home, this beautiful, nurturing, forgiving Earth?

  • Earthie48

    You know what is so sad about our Economic collapse, is that Right leaning individuals can’t get past the hate they have for President Obama, than to see the REAL Problem! Too many Americans OUT OF WORK, NO COST of LIVING jobs, therefore makes them MORE dependent on the System. Whereby the top 1% whose responsible for their plights, have taken their jobs moved them overseas for CHEAP LABOR! Yet, they insist on blaming Obama for their woes! They still refuse to see the bigger picture in the Affordable Care Act! It amazes me, how blind the American people INSIST on remaining, for they PREFER to believe the LIES and they HYPE, rather than do some reading and research to determine whose telling them the truth, as little as there is in our Right Wing Controlled Media! I despise a liar; how these grown folks in our Congress and Senate can LIE the way they do, I just don’t understand how they get away with it! To me, this is NOT free speech, this is OUTRIGHT LYING and they should loose their Seats, fined and jailed! We should NOT have this kind of representation in our Government, whose controlling our Way of life! To me, they SWORE Under Oath to UPHOLD the American Process, not take it backwards, and they are doing so, under a constant PACK OF LIES and DECEPTIONS! To me, they have PERJURED themselves UNDER OATH, therefore, they should be FIRED, FINED AND JAIL, for Misrepresenting the MAJORITY of the American People, to NEVER EVER hold a Public Position for the rest of their natural life! Until, the American People, uses its research abilities, and their minds, I’m sorry, I just don’t see things turning around, anytime soon.

  • Anonymous

    Bill moyers is right on, once again. However it perplexes me how so many decry the cuts to food stamps proposed by the republican controlled house without ever mentioning the $4 billion in cuts to food stamps already passed by the democratically controlled Senate. This too is a scandal. Do we only speak up when the conservatives hurt the poor?

  • Dave Ireland

    You, my friend, nailed it!

  • Marigrow

    If the pope was truly concerned with unemployment and the quality of people’s lives he would embrace birth control.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you, Bill. Two million unemployed is probably a modest figure. Add all the people who’ve stopped looking for work and the figure would probably be closer to five million.

    I think the first step in challenging those figures has to be stopping the TPP, as it will almost certainly result in even more unemployment:

    “What would TPP mean for the 99%? Millions more American jobs offshored. Backdoor deregulation for financial firms to wreck the economy again. Floods of unsafe food and products. Higher medicine prices. A ban on Buy America policies needed to create green jobs and rebuild our economy. Foreign corporations empowered to attack our environmental and health policies in foreign tribunals.

    “Closed-door talks are on-going between the U.S. and Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam; with countries like Japan and China potentially joining later. The 600 corporate advisors have access to the draft text of this deal that could change all of our lives. The public, Members of Congress, journalists, and civil society are excluded. Until now… get involved!” http://tpp2012.com/

    Putting fully half of the global economy into the hands of transnational corporations is hardly the way to answering America’s problems. If we want to do something about it, we have to educate ourselves because no school, no college, no university is going to provide us with it.

  • Anonymous

    The clown show in the two Houses of Congress plays out in such a way as to convince Americans that there are still two parties, opposed in almost every way. Anyone who’s read “This Town” knows that no such divide exists. Members of both parties are there equally to serve the moneyed interests. Voting means choosing whichever group of banks and corporations you want governing you for the next two or four years.

  • Anonymous

    Give him time. He has already said that the church’s obsession with birth control and abortion is misguided

  • karencan

    STANDING OVATION for the BEST commentary on capitalism I think I have ever heard! Good on you, Bill Moyers!

  • Maureen Lundy

    Embracing birth control – for whom?

  • Anonymous

    Speaking up needs to have education to drive it. I did not remember that the dems had passed a bill to cut food stamps $4billion. If we are dealing in sound bytes only, this is one of the results – that is, if the dems did cut food stamps already. Could you cite a reference”

  • Anonymous

    Sure. Here’s the reference. What the dems are doing is sellling out the poor as a bargaining chip. Why there needed to be any cuts at all in a program that feeds hungry families with children at a time when poverty is at an all time high is nothing short of a scandal. http://thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/senate/304585-senate-votes-66-27-to-pass-a-five-year-farm-bill

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. With the double speak and language, I still do not understand if the $4billion in the Farm Bill the Senate passed in June, 2013, has passed into law or not. Will research more. The dems in that reference article from The Hill Blog really lie too. Because nobody makes it clear to ordinary taxpaying people who do not have time to research and ferret out all the evil crazy things they do in their insulated dome – the people we elect get away with lying and stealing. The important thing is, did it pass into law in the Farm bill on June 2013? Or is that what the current crazy fools are diddling with now, on September 30, 2013?

  • Anonymous

    Well said. It is not law yet. That’s what the dems passed onto the repub House. And the House of course wants cut tons more. But in the very least it will be a four billion dollar cut. My guess is the dems Will agree to additional cuts well below the 40 billion wanted by the house and look like heroes, meanwhile the 4 billion they’ve already cut plus whatever else they agree on will cause a lot of pain for low income Americans. So who do we have to turn to? Both parties tow the corporate line, one more than the other. But it’s always the poor who end up getting it, well, in the end.

  • Anonymous

    I still see otherwise intelligent people voting republican. Some are not even old enough to be living in that time warp when republicans were decent representatives of the people. Money and corruption in politics are destroying our democracy. I do not understand why people do not see it. Unless we get a democratically controlled congress, necessary repairs will never be done to our economy.

  • http://www.yourhealthyplanet.com/ Alex Sprunt

    Bill rather than try to change something that’s not working that great American R Buckminster Fuller said we should create a NEW artifact that makes the old one redundant. How do we do that?

    As an engineer and risk manager I connect very strongly to Fuller’s comments and views on engineered solutions being more effective than politics or indeed education. The BIG point to get our heads around however is that we actually do live in a “world of abundance” because technology has evolved over past fifty years to be able to do so much with so little. eg one iphone 4 has more computing power than all the computers used in WWII.

    The problem is over 90% of people still believe there isn’t enough to go round and so they ‘fight’ to get what they need, and in the process we all lose. I founded a fledgling social enterprise called Your Healthy Planet based on Fuller’s principles and with a context of abundance. It’s free to join and always will be – http://yourhealthyplanet.com

  • Anonymous

    The rich corrupters of governments here and throughout the world learned a long time ago: Control the media and you control the masses. Advertising of false information is perceived as truth and confuses average people. This is why the U.S. and the world citizens have unknowingly lost their representation in their governing systems to the corrupt. Our world is doomed to the accesses of the greedy rich. There can be no other outcome unless we take money out of politics.

  • Ama

    I am tired of being poor! I am loosing hope.

  • asilasun

    The reality is that the right way of doing things (for people and the planet) will take away the power from those that have it. If all of us began to get involved and started chipping away at that power, we’d be in a much better position to save ourselves and the earth. As long as we stay on the sidelines, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

  • Tim Taylor

    We have reached a point in life where the concept of the protestant work ethic no longer fits. We don’t need to work thanks to great productivity advancements through science. So, the fundamental dilemma isn’t how we artificially create 100 million living wage jobs for those underemployed and unemployed in this nation. It’s how to we now distribute the national income when the concept of work has become unnecessary?

    People need to have an identity of self worth. That is often derived through work. Frankly that often perpetuates emotional dysfunction rather than identifying ourselves as worthy through our own inner spiritual guidance. People need an opportunity to give back. To be part of something greater than themselves. That is what work has often done. We all need something to do. But I would argue that work for the sake of work dumbs down society.

    Freeing people from work is a wonderful achievement of science. We could pay people to raise their kids. To help the indigent. To grow food locally for others who are unemployed. To give back in some way to society. Whatever. Paying people does not have to be for pleasing our corporate masters.

    Both you and the Pope are accurate but are missing a point. Why create work for the sake of work? Why not create a better society and use the productivity enhancements of science as the springboard to do so.

  • Tim Taylor

    We definitely are pillaging the planet and the self-absorbed narcissists are responsible but Easter Island experienced its collapse because of rats not humans. This is a popular meme that is actually not true.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting Tim. I would love to know your source … as the two I have read about it definitely have the rats (of the furry variety that it) coming as a result of the environmental degradation due to the continued making of Ahu.

  • Tim Taylor

    Globalization has certainly contributed to job loss. And that is part of the criminal aspects of deregulated private capital that Bill Clinton and Al Gore championed through NAFTA, WTO, etc. BUT you are missing a much bigger phase shift. Indeed science has made a world where people don’t need to work. People who are scientists and engineers understand that the productivity enhancements created by science are real. And a report just released shows that these productivity shocks may actually be increasing.

    http://www.technologyreview.com/view/519241/report-suggests-nearly-half-of-us-jobs-are-vulnerable-to-computerization/

    http://www.technologyreview.com/featuredstory/515926/how-technology-is-destroying-jobs/

    We have 100 million people in this country who are underemployed or unemployed. Most of those people work in doing each other’s laundry service economy jobs.

    If you think we are going to replace those 100 million essentially consumption-driven and useless jobs with 100 million factory jobs that actually produce wealth, you are fooling yourself. But more importantly, you are missing what is happening on a larger macro scale that is well beyond the criminality of globalization; something no one in their right mind disputes.

    The Great Depression was caused by many dynamics including the corruption and financial renter capitalism we see today. But, there were reasons why these labor market shifts happened. The shift to meaningless paper pushing jobs in both cases was fueled in very large part by a collapse in the need for labor in the industrial economy due to automation and productivity shocks. The 1920s were a depression leading up to the Great Depression for those in many industries that experienced those automation shocks. The roaring 20s wasn’t roaring for everyone. It was roaring for finance that saw a massive swell in employment and money due to massive increases in productivity.

    You aren’t going to fix this crisis by bringing back every single job that was offshored. We are witnessing the collapse of capitalism. 130 years ago it worked because 9 out of 10 people were producing wealth in this nation. Today, only 12% of Americans actually work in jobs that produce any wealth. We’re never going back to 90%.

  • Anonymous

    I am an engineer and the U.S. suffers joblessness more from undue political corruption than from technology. The media is filled with claims of engineering talent lacking in the U.S. so politicians keep raising the H1-B visas which only has the effect of plateauing engineering salaries, and putting more Americans out of work. Yes, I have experienced this first hand.

  • Tim Taylor

    And so do I. There is plenty of corruption creating job losses but the fact that you don’t acknowledge reality and give my factual remarks a negative rating says enough.

  • Tim Taylor

    Anthropologist Terry Hunt. The evidence is pretty incontrovertible that ecosystem collapse was caused by rats and not humans. This is a popular meme that doesn’t really fit the science.

  • Anonymous

    You are a misinformation troll, plain and simple!

  • Anonymous

    Thanks Tim – will look him up. Not heard of him. y

  • Anonymous

    Bill the best job making policy Washington could ever do right now is have implement a Fair Trade Policy with China. The gross imbalance has stolen our jobs and our economy. We have been in denial about the existing trade war going on with “Communist” China and they are killing us Economically, Environmentally, and with Poisoned products. Their government subsidizes exports, high tariffs, slave labor, non existent environmental laws and currency manipulation is a TRADE WAR. When will we as Americans stand up and protect our citizens and country against this onslaught???

  • dsqs

    Our representatives will wake up when they or their loved ones lose their job and become helpless.

    Manipulative ideological catchwords/rheotorics have brought us to this stage over a very long period of
    time.

    Now this is affecting the majority of people and people are waking up and have started reacting.

    For many people especially young people, there is no hope, and that does not bode well for those controlling the political power.

  • dsqs

    Historically establishments have always looked for ways to exploit workers and enrich their masters. Outsourcing is the evolution of the same theme.

    If we continue in this path, only people with money and political power will continue to prosper. Skilled/ working classes will be marginalized and will be forced to live below poverty line.

    We should have policies to empower local communities to become self sufficient and take care of themselves. Local communities should be shielded from careless globalization to enrich few.

  • dsqs

    very good alternative.

  • Anonymous

    Dear Bill,

    Can we digest this change? Robots doing most of the commercial work, while humans do human work, work that humanizes… not degrades. Look to new ways of doing things.

    Jeremy Rifkin has answers that Germany and China can see… distributed networks and collaborative economics. Robert Skidelsky quoted Lord Maynard Keynes in stating we ought to be working a 15 hour work week by now, with full employment.

    Our current educational chain letter only promises fool employment. Robots have the commercial jobs and do them well. Cannot society grow quality instead of volume, in exchange for the food we all need every day?

    So I hope you have these guests:

    Jimmy Carter … about solar (re)installed on top of the whitehouse.
    Jeremy Rifkin on the Zero Marginal Cost Society
    And How Much is Enough by Robert Skidelsky

    Let us have a few answers…… enough of the many critiques.
    We all can hear Nero fiddling.

    thank you,