BILL MOYERS: There’s a chapter called “The Second Gilded Age” in Paul Krugman’s book where he describes the extraordinary rise in wealth and power of the very rich during this era of unregulated greed. Since Ronald Reagan’s election in 1980, the top one percent of Americans have seen their incomes increase by 275 percent. But after accounting for inflation, the typical hourly wage for a worker has increased just $1.23 cents.

Big money, as Krugman writes in this book, buys big influence. And that’s why the financiers of Wall Street never truly experience regime change – because their cash brings both parties to heel. So, the policies that got us where we are today – in this big ditch of chronic depression -- have done little for most, but have been very good to a few at the top.

But those at the top are not satisfied with having only most of it -- they want it all. And if he were writing his book today, Krugman could find plenty of evidence in the deal that supposedly kept us from going over the fiscal cliff. Behind closed doors, Congress larded it with corporate tax breaks worth tens of billions of dollars -- everything from tax credits for NASCAR racing and the railroads to subsidies for Hollywood. Rebates for the rum industry and loopholes for off-shore financing that could help giant multinationals like General Electric avoid billions of dollars in corporate income taxes.

Writing in “The Washington Examiner,” columnist Tim Carney says many of these expensive giveaways were “spawned by a web of lobbyists, donors and staffers surrounding Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana” – chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. As we know from the Obamacare fight, Baucus is a connoisseur of revolving door corruption. “Pick any one of the special-interest tax breaks extended by the cliff deal,” Carney wrote, “and you're likely to find a former Baucus aide who lobbied for it on behalf of a large corporation or industry organization.” Even the pro-business “Wall Street Journal” was appalled. They called it a “Crony Capitalist Blowout.”

CEO’s and lobbyists were tripping over themselves as they traipsed up and down Pennsylvania Avenue between Congress and the White House, privately protecting their interests as they publicly urge austerity on everyone else. Here’s Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and chair of the global investment giant Goldman Sachs, when asked by CBS News’ Scott Pelley about how he would reduce the federal deficit:

LLOYD BLANKFEIN: You're going to have to undoubtedly do something to lower people's expectations the entitlements and what people think that they're going to get, because it's not going to they're not going to get it.

SCOTT PELLEY: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid?

LLOYD BLANKFEIN: Some things. And you know, you can go back and you can look at history of these things, and Social Security wasn't devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career. Entitlements have to be slowed down and contained.

SCOTT PELLEY: Because we can't afford them going forward?

LLOYD BLANKFEIN: Because we can't afford them.

BILL MOYERS: Ah, yes, but Goldman makes sure their entitlements aren't touched. Here's the story. After 9/11 Congress created tax-exempt Liberty Zone bonds to help small businesses rebuild near Ground Zero. Turns out Goldman's friends in high places consider it a small business, too, although it made $5.6 billion dollars in profits last year. As the fiscal cliff fiasco was playing out over New Year’s Eve, faster than the ball dropped in Times Square, a deal was struck in Washington that will extend the subsidies for Goldman’s fancy new headquarters in lower Manhattan. In their 43 stories of glass and steel, and a footprint two city blocks long, Goldman Sachs reigns supreme, thanks to a system rigged by and for the powerful rich.

And then this. Just hours before the fiscal cliff deal’s higher individual tax rates kicked in, Goldman handed Lloyd Blankfein and his top lieutenants “a total of $65 million in restricted stock,” bonuses awarded a month earlier than usual so they could all beat the coming tax hike from which they have been spared for more than 10 lucrative years. It will not surprise you, I am sure, to learn that “corporations announced more special dividends last month than in any other December since at least 1955.” Doing everything they can to avoid helping pay off the debt their CEOs have been urging Congress to cut.

As for working people, tough luck. Because the fiscal cliff deal ends the cut in payroll taxes, the average worker this year will take home about a thousand dollars less.

LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III: Hey, when Paul gets really bummed out, that’s when I get scared. But when Paul says there’s a glint of home, I feel we’ve all been spared.

Bill Moyers Essay: The ‘Crony Capitalist Blowout’

Bill explains how last week’s fiscal cliff deal gave tens of billions in tax breaks to Wall Street and corporations — what even the Wall Street Journal calls a “crony capitalist blowout.”

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  • Maria Klinger

    ça ira, ça ira, ça ira…

  • Muncie Voice

    We’ve been speaking up in the Midwest, and citizens want to know what’s next. What can we do with the rage swelling up across the country?

  • bwolcott

    What Lloyd Blankfein entitlements need to be trimmed/cut? Thanks Lloyd for telling hard working Americans what they should not expect in the future because of greedy #@!$ like you!

  • Ringo Brown

    Regards this latest outrage, I think what the Occupy Wall Street crowd missed was to celebrate a New Holiday. That is: Bastille Day.

    Check history. What happened around that time?

    It freed the French people from the greedy autocrats. Now, we call them traders.

  • Anonymous

    Mr. Moyers,
    I, too, read the bill and then NY TImes story detailing this largess and wondered who was behind those specific breaks. Thanks for ‘following the money’.

    Perhaps you could explain why so few in media are willing to name – names. And then go forward and name those names. You have long spoken that good government requires a light to scare away the vermin.

    I sometimes wish my company could score a a $1.7 billion tax break for an investment in an office building. Or share in the $9 billion of specific tax credits. But we can’t afford to buy influence with a member of congress, much less a Senator.

    By coincidence we’re seeking a strategic business partnership with a life science division of GE. I don’t anticipate we can point to their special tax break and expect them to toss a few million our way to extend the lives of 500,000 Americans.

  • davidp

    If you look abit at history since the late 1800s, the big boys at the top most of the time have had their way…sounds like the aristocracy of the U.K. or the rich and privilege in the Downton Abbey series. History revisited…Obama mentioned that we should look forward instead of backwards…HA!

  • Erdman West III

    If Bill Moyers says it you can believe it!!!

  • Addie Brik

    Bill Moyers you are a loadstar in these morally turbulent times. Thank you for the excellent commentaries and journalism. “Crony Capitalist Blowout” is pithy and pointed as a laser gun.

  • Brendan

    There are actually thousands of Americans organizing right now to fight this. We need millions.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you Bill M. for all you do!…your space is an oasis.

    I believe the single most important focal point in righting the Ship of State and mending the social fabric is to change the way lobbying is done. Everything else, including taking down Citizen’s United, will be impotent efforts without lobby reform.

    As we all know, professional lobbying is the source and impetus of all legislation, regulation and government spending policy; and, it is entirely one-sided with industry and financial interests all pulling away from, and conflicted with the interests of the middle class and the public.

    The public interest is missing and virtually un-represented in the face of tax-deductible billions spent annually by industry and commercial interests that increase the trend towards privatizing profits, and socializing costs, expenses, and risk.

    Without recognizing this battle, the war for equity and fairness will be lost.

    While it is unconstitutional to require that lobbyists present both sides of an issue, if there is a will there is a way. The simplest way would be to create a Lobby Tax where any private expenditure intended to affect legislation or government policy would be subject to a 100% tax; with the tax revenue utilized to present and develop the other side of the issue, almost always the public interest which is currently missing or ineffectually presented.

    In addition to preventing bad policy, such an approach offers great benefits in that it represents no cost to government, and it will deepen the understanding of all issues by providing a two-sided argument, for a change.

    If lobbying is not changed, nothing else will matter. It can be done.

    I know this pig won’t fly, but let’s start talking seriously about the Lobby Problem….it is the crux of our socio-political economic problems.

  • Anonymous

    “…fiscal cliff deal gave tens of billions in
    tax breaks to Wall Street and corporations…”

    ….when are we going to admit, most of our problems are the result of the structure and nature of our capitalist economic system….with its’ influence, corruption and boom/bust gyrations, it’s incapable of keeping pace with the demands of a modern society….

    ….one after another, urgent societal needs go unaddressed while corporate money plagues and paralyzes our politics to benefit the 1%….explain to me once again, the benefits of capitalism verses its’ liabilities, I can’t quite remember….why do we do this to ourselves?

  • Dan.

    actually, you can’t. Goldman built its HQ years ago so it doesn’t benefit from the extension.

  • Maria Mayer

    Here I am; ready

  • jrue54

    Because they own the media.

  • Richard Solomon

    I would like to know more about the subsidies that Goldman Sachs and other brokerage houses have received.

  • lyrita59

    I may be north of the 49th, but I support your endeavour to change the paradigm. Like Maria Meyer posted: “Here I am; ready.”

  • lyrita59

    Apologies, Maria. It’s Mayer; right in front of my face, and I do the typo anyway…

  • Netizen Nick

    Here’s why The People of Occupy couldn’t take to the streets en masse with “pitchforks” and “torches” during the Great Recession, the banks and the intelligence communities and the para-military arms of law enforcement quashed it seriptiously:

  • Bitter in California

    At 61 (next week) and being out-sourced at age 50 from a billion dollar beverage corporation, only to be re-hired by the company that took over and who within 3 months of being hired by them was being asked (TOLD) to lie about my productivity and safety inspections on our large fleet of vehicles (because the idiots had under-bid the contract) find all this behavior indicative of a country gone insane.
    It’s not about country or community or even ethics anymore… just the bottom line.
    Thanks, Obama! We voted for you twice, but I refuse to ever vote the democrat ticket again… If I ever even bother voting again…?
    Your ALL just a bunch of thieves willing to sell-out for the highest bribe you can get your grubby little fingers on
    Bitter in California

  • juda

    Bill and Judith: I thank you so much for stucking it out when you could be retired and living in some free country having grapes fed to you! You are true patriots. You are so so needed!!!!

  • juda

    Netizen: don’t underplay OWS. Let them get there step by step and we do the same wherever we are. If Bill and Judith can stick with us we should be able to stick with ourselves, hummm?

  • juda

    It’s not up to an Obama or a Romney do you think? It’s up to us I suspect. Maybe this is why history is re-visited –we never seem to get it. Where is our own self image? Why are we always waiting for a leader? Then if we get one we expect them to make our decisions for us. Wellll here we are. Maybe we each need to simultaneously be leader/follower?

  • Olinda

    I still can’t get over how pompous he was telling us how “low” we are!!

  • judy wright

    All you have to do is look at the Net Worth of a member of Congress over time. There’s over $500 Trillion in tax breaks to corporations.

  • judy wright

    Speaking of Brokerage: Every state has sales tax, so why isn’t there a Tobin Tax – even $.005 per transaction?

  • Sharon Ivicevic

    I, completely, agree with you! We keep trying to fill up the cracks these sleezy politicians slip through but they just pay someone to pour more oil on them. It’s an eternal game that we can never win…. so I, also, (although ashamed to admit) have stopped trying.