READ THE TRANSCRIPT

BILL MOYERS: Watching what’s happening to our democracy is like watching the cruise ship Costa Concordia founder and slowly sink into the sea off the coast of Italy. The passengers, shorn of life vests, scramble for safety as best they can, while the captain trips and falls conveniently into a waiting life boat.

Here at home we are drowning, with gaping holes torn into the hull of the ship of state from charges detonated by the owners and manipulators of capital. Their wealth has become a demonic force in politics. Nothing can stop them. Not the law, which is written to accommodate them. Not scrutiny they have no shame. Not a decent respect for the welfare of others. The people without means, whose safety net has been shredded, leaving them helpless before events beyond their control, like those passengers on that ship.

The obstacles facing the millennial generation for example didn’t just happen. An economy skewed to the top, low wages and missing jobs, predatory interest on college loans. These are consequences of government politically engineered by and for the one percent. So is our tax code, the product of money and politics of influence and favoritism, of lobbyists and the laws they draft for politicians to enact.

So here’s what we’re up against. Read it and weep: “America’s Plutocrats Play the Political Ponies.” That’s from something called “Too Much,” an internet publication from the Institute for Policy Studies that describes itself as “an online weekly on excess and inequality.” Yes, the results are in and our elections have replaced horse racing as the sport of kings. Only these kings aren’t your everyday poobahs and potentates. These kings are multi-billionaires, corporate moguls who by the divine right -- not of God, but of the United States Supreme Court and its Citizens United Decision -- are now buying politicians like so much pricey horseflesh. All that money pouring into SuperPACs, much of it from secret sources: merely an investment, in the best government money can buy, should their horse pay off in November. All this can numb the soul, and chill the ardor of the most devoted citizen, who's exposed to the buying and selling of our democratic birthright. But there is an antidote, on our website BillMoyers.com. We will link you to a vision of hope.

Sara Robinson, a senior editor of Alternet.org, has written an essay entitled “New Rules for Radicals: Ten Ways to Spark Change in a Post-Occupy World.” Check it out. My hunch is you’ll cease to weep over our sinking ship of state, and start working to repair it.

Bill Moyers Essay: Who Shipwrecked Our Economy?

February 10, 2012

Is our economy a sinking ship, and who’s steering it in that direction? Bill’s essay looks at owners and manipulators of capital, whose wealth has become a ” demonic force in politics” — unstoppable by the law, scrutiny, or decency. Yet all hope is not lost; Bill points out some ways to start patching the boat.

 

Recommended Reads:

Too Much: America’s Plutocrats Play the Political Ponies

Alternet: New Rules for Radicals: Ten Ways to Spark Change in a Post-Occupy World

  • submit to reddit

BillMoyers.com encourages conversation and debate around issues, events and ideas related to content on Moyers & Company and the BillMoyers.com website.

  • The editorial staff reserves the right to take down comments it deems inappropriate.
  • Profanity, personal attacks, hate speech, off-topic posts, advertisements and spam will not be tolerated.
  • Do not intentionally make false or misleading statements, impersonate someone else, break the law, or condone or encourage unlawful activity.

If your comments consistently or intentionally make this community a less civil and enjoyable place to be, you and your comments will be excluded from it.

We need your help with this. If you feel a post is not in line with the comment policy, please flag it so that we can take a look. Comments and questions about our policy are welcome. Please send an email to info@moyersmedia.com

Find out more about BillMoyers.com's privacy policy and terms of service.

  • Anonymous

    What absolute garbage.  GOVERNMENT SPENDING is the problem…not tax rates.  Taxes are still too high.  You “progressives” will never be satisfied until the tax rate is 100 percent.

  • Rolland Carpenter

    Corporations are people but pay no taxes on overseas profits.  Real “people” do.  What we need are fair taxes.  I pay 15% on my stock dividends.  Working people pay nearly twice that on “earned income”.  Yes let’s have lower taxes, after we pay off the massive debt that is destroying our Beloved Country!

  • Jae

    Did you listen to what was being said? Yes the govt is owned by wall street, but lower taxes while also cutting taxes lead to starving the things you & I rely on like roads, education, healthcare ( if you care about this), etc. We need to get corporation/ wallstreet $$$$ out of politics and the gov’t before we can right our country’s path.

  • Jae

    Lowering taxes while cutting spending …

  • Aknina51

    America cannot stay the course of lower taxes, particularly on the wealthy, and expect that our country as we know it and the services that make all of our lives better will survive.  This program explains the problem in plain language.   Big money, big corporations, and greed…  Where is the patriotism of these self-interested people and corporations?

  • Anonymous

     To your comment that “taxes are still too high”, I recommend you watching the Bruce Bartlett segment here. He addresses that point directly. And he should know…

    http://billmoyers.com/segment/bruce-bartlett-on-where-the-right-went-wrong/

  • Jmaiv 1954

         I remember the scene from Dr. Zhivago when the Russian soldiers with sabres drawn rode thru a crowd of poor protestors killing and maiming. The rich continued to eat without regard to their plight. The rich French continued to ignore the poor and the result brought chaos and horror to that country. They were not worried about the poor. Many of the poor of this country served in the military. They put their lives on the line only to return home to no jobs or poorly paying ones. These people have faced battle before and to continue to ignore them is to think they will not fight to even the playing field. There is class warfare going on and congress is siding with the rich. Pushed down and cheated long enough the poor will eventually rise up and fight back and remember many of the poor served in the military just as many of the poor in France and Russia did. The rich lost a lot more than just their priveleged lifestyle.

  • Anonymous

    You greed-driven “conservatives” will never be satisfied, period, even if you could get all the money for yourselves. Do you think the wealthy make their money in a vacuum? All the government services the wealthy depend on in order to amass and maintain their wealth costs money, money that had to come from taxes. Roads, bridges, police, fire, air traffic control, market oversight, business laws, an almost endless array of services that the wealth of the wealthy could not exist without. 

    Wake up. You could not get rich or stay rich without massive government spending. Don’t believe it? Go to a third-world country and make your fortune there. Go somewhere with no government services, smart guy, and see how far you get. Government services are not free. The people who financially benefit the most should pay the most.

  • bill crawford

    Bruce Bartletts segment was RIGHT ON!    Loved how he pointed out the role of Fox News and talk radio in the current state of political divisiveness.
        also, want to point out that the “starve the beast” folks ignore the fact that our government has a big Chinese Visa card.  It does not starve due to tax cuts.  It simply borrows more money!

  • SLS

    I have come to the conclusion that taxing of the income of individuals should be dropped entirely; that only 
    corporations and businesses  should be liable for the tax.  Make no mistake, individuals will pay the taxes imposed on the businesses (as they do today) because business will pass the cost on in higher prices (at least as long as consumers allow it).  With this system, as with all truly indirect taxes, there is a built-in governor that produces a “sweet spot” which is the tax rate that generates the most in collections; any rate below, or above, the sweet spot produces less.  It would then be up to Congress to figure out what that sweet spot is, and the blame can only be placed on them if they do not hit it.  The system also limits the highest collections available, therefore limiting them to what the nation can truly support.

  • Katherine Schock

    If you haven’t clicked on the link to the Alternet essay, you should do so now…and sign up to receive their updates to your email account!  These ten ways to spark change in a post-occupy world are a valuable asset to use in our endeavors to create change!

  • Cojaysea

    Not in this country . Are you joking ? This is a nation of sheep interested in fluff

  • Randall Gunn

    I commend your reporting. Thank you for being truthful. Its hard to find these days in the “popular mass media” and the “popular churches”. Instead of being objective as you report, the “media” often gives two sides to each current event issue – despite the facts. Many people are unable to make intelligent choices unless they have the consequences of their choices spelled out for them ahead of time. Instead of being objective in reporting the truth they turn their reporting into a show of political personalities. In doing so they confuse and mislead the audience. God and the truth are one and the same. God gives each of us a choice. There are two powers contending for supremacy. Those of the truth and those of error. The greatest freedom in this country is James Madison’s first amendment. In this is also the freedom to worship or not to worship. Don’t be surprised when the spirit of these same ones want to have a constitutional convention – to reinterpret the first amendment. To Christianize the United States and merge church and state, to make this a Christian sponsored religious state nation. I have studied it much of my life. This is where it is leading to. This is why we are hearing the so called “moral talk”. A lot of people find it hard to believe that the United States would repudiate its constitutional freedom of religion. They will legislate Sunday laws. Watch. The first Sunday law in the U. S. was in Jamestown Virginia in 1610. God gives us a choice because without choice there would be no love. He does not force or coerst the conscience. He wants those who worship him out of love from the heart for the truth. To understand this prophecy read the scriptures. Compare scripture with scripture precept upon precept line upon line. It answers itself. Take care.

  • Robert

    We must form a Labor party, built along the lines of old trade unions , promoting a more even distribution of the capital gains of enterprise, erasing the division of elitism, racism and “my job is more important than you job mentality’; a financial distance  must be bridged, somehow, somewhere 
    over those mountains, our screaming out grivances must echo to their homes, their hearts-but, as yet, our call comes back to us unheard, except for a lingering whisper.     
    We must form a Labor party.   

  • Dwkind51

    if we continue down this road of the  greed of the 1%,with the average person walking around with blinders on, inmorality,racecial injustist. you will not have to worry about any over seas government bringing this country down.IT will fall from within!!!

  • John Lewis

    I am not too certain of that.  The fluff as you say is getting quite a bit thinner and becoming quite itchy for all those people who have lost their home, job, and are fed by the food banks.  They are getting quite a bit  irritated at the ruling elite.   Remember what happened in Russia?  What is happening in other countries where the “elite” has taken too much place?  99% vs 1% armed to teeths…

  • logic16

     Can you really be that thick in the head?

  • Gaybicycle

    For rusting ship metaphor check out S.S. United States, once a magnificent transatlantic liner and holder of the speed record from Europe to the U.S. (we’re talking 50 mph in the open ocean) rusting in a Philadelphia dock…

  • Knowledge

    Wealth redistribution, HUH? Your all idiots along with Moyers. He is a major player! CFR buddy. FOOLS!

  • Queral58

    The first thing we have to do is is make sure the right is not in power, not in the executive branch, and not in congress. Then we can address the corruption of the system which includes  Democrats. But this country cannot make ANY progress with  the GOP there to obstruct and brazenly dismantle all social programs, unions, consumer protections, in other words, take us back to the 20′s. There are progressive and liberal voices in the Democratic party and there are NONE in the GOP. One thing at a time. Give Obama a second term and then deal with his issues like signing indefinite detention.

  • hipnek

    I didn’t care much for the “New Rules for Radicals” linked above.  It is admittedly liberal and refers to conservatives as the enemy.  This is divisive.  My understanding of the occupy movement is that it means to speak for the 99%, a number which must necessarily include people from all across the political spectrum.  Reform can’t come to our failing democracy until a significant majority of us find a way to put aside partisanship and find a way to work together.

  • Cherfriedman

    You need to read history. Taxes are the lowest under this president since the 1950′s.

  • hipnek

    From the looks of the rest of this discussion so far, the same old partisan divisiveness that got all of us into this mess reigns supreme here too.  No surprise.

  • Anonymous

    I see the same tendencies, especially in the 10 Rules which are too lame for radicals.

  • Anonymous

    Sounds good to me.

  • Anonymous

    WHO SHIWRECKED OUR AMERICAN ECONOMY?

    Lineup of  Top Ten Unusual Suspects

    1.President Truman-lowering the corporate tax from 90% to 35%;

    2.President Carter and President Clinton support of NAFTA;

    3.President Clinton deregulation of derivatives;

    4. Media- idiolization of Alan Greenspan or Mr. Bubble;

    5.Congress -lack of action when China lowered its currency by 50%;
     allowing China to impose 25% hike to American exports to China ; permitting China to export to USA for only 3%;

    6. President Reagan heavy hand against Unions;

    7. Busch and Obama war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya

    8. President Lincoln and whig party involvement in using   government funds to build the trancontinnental railroad(1962) for profit.

    9.TVand its audience-the dumbing down of America

    10 All of us-our Military Industrial Complex-Cold War etc..,

  • Anonymous

    There is so much I disagree with in Robinson’s essay that I hardly know where to begin. Let’s start with her flawed definition of “plagiarism.” Plagiarism is not “borrowing” someone’s ideas. Plagiarism is “stealing someone’s original work and passing it off as your own.” The Occupy Movement is woefully similar to an attempt by World War I veterans to “occupy” Washington D.C. in order to shake loose a veterans’ bonus they thought was rightfully theirs. It was a miserable failure that cost numerous lives. I was on active duty in the Air Force during the Vietnam War and missed out entirely on the “movement” that so many people credit for ending that conflict. As I remember, Congress finally decided that the United States had wasted too much blood and treasure on a worthless quagmire (no oil involved) and just pulled the plug. I am a retired aerospace engineer who graduated from the University of Texas about a decade after Moyers did, and we had some of the same professors. What I know today is largely what I learned in public schools, in a state university, in a subsequent master’s program, in “enrichment” courses I took during and afterward, and by simply paying attention while I applied my formal education in the profession that I chose. If a child started today along the paths that Moyers and I took, with concerned parents and teachers in a succession of tax-supported schools, he/she would have just as much chance to succeed as we did. Snakes and snake-oil salesmen have been with us since the beginning of time, trying to make us do the wrong thing.
     
    It is what we do with what we have that matters, and thank heaven for the wise men and women who went before us, inventing new things, improving old things, and passing on their knowledge.

  • Anonymous

    I couldn’t disagree more. My wife and I, filing jointly, are near the top of the bottom bracket, and our only sources of income beyond Social Security and pensions are companies that pay NO federal income tax but pay handsome dividends to shareholders, who pay income taxes on them.

    If those shareholders hold their shares in Roth IRAs, then they don’t even pay taxes on the dividends. How is this fair? Because the money in the Roth started out as after-tax earnings. We paid the tax when our employers paid us. The less employers pay in taxes, the more their employees can earn.

    Money sheltered in Roth IRAs will never be subject to income taxes. If every taxpayer used the Roth IRA, estate taxes and capital gains taxes would be useless.

    If none of our businesses paid ANY taxes, ALL of their profits would be shared by the PEOPLE who are employed by those businesses, who would then pay taxes on their income.

    If our businesses paid no taxes, they would be more competitive in global commerce against foreign companies whose employee benefits are paid by their governments.

    Nearly all of the federal government’s revenue now comes from personal income taxes. Eliminating corporate taxes would increase personal incomes and would increase the government’s revenue. Just do the math.

  • Anonymous

    I largely agree with you, except for what you believe about the military. Some problems with veterans start with themselves. If they go into one of the services right out of high school and learn no marketable skills, then they are doomed by their own stupidity. We do have a GI bill, after all, and if they stay to retirement, as I did, a pension with a COLA and Social Security with a COLA provide a safety net that is more than adequate.
     
    Some veterans with severe injuries might be rehabilitated over time, and those who are permanently disabled get tax-free pensions. Who pays for the pensions? People who pay taxes on our incomes and pensions. There are soldiers and sailors homes for those who never achieve success, and there are many upscale retirement communities for more affluent vets who never adjust to civilian life and just prefer to relive their “glory days.”

  • James Tennier

    What patriotism? It’s all about the money to them. Doubt St Peter will be impressed.