Preview: America’s Gilded Capital

This week’s show originally aired on August 20, 2013. 

Mark Leibovich covers Washington, D.C., as chief national correspondent for The New York Times Magazine — and has written about the city’s bipartisan lust for power, cash and notoriety in a book that everyone who’s anyone in our nation’s capital is talking about. The title is This Town, and if you want to know what the insiders of Washington are doing to the very notion of government of, by, and for the people, you have to read it, too. This is the story of how Washington became an occupied city, its hold on reality distorted by greed and ambition; it pulls no punches and names names, revealing the movers and shakers and the deals they make, all in the name of crony capitalism. On this week’s encore Moyers & Company, Mark Leibovich joins Bill to reveal what he has learned about a city where money rules and status is determined by who you know and what they can do for you.

Learn more about the production team behind Moyers & Company. Watch the full show»

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  • Scott Wolfel

    Isn’t this a tough nut for Moyers & Company? While on the one hand the progressive/liberal left sees government as the solution to our problems (except for national security), on the other Leibovich unmasks the utter depravity and corruption of our government and those who feed off it, which has reached a new level under the current administration. It’s no coincidence that Washington DC was the only housing market that didn’t decline in the crisis. While the Moyers’ intro has to throw in the ideological spin, “…all in the name of crony capitalism,” the corruption in DC is endemic and crosses ideological and party lines. Combine this with the recent NSA revelations it is, “we have met the enemy and it is us!”

  • Jeff Korenak

    After listening to the book a few times, Leibovich clearly states that there are no Republicans or Democrats in DC, only millionaires. It is disingenuous to suggest that this has gotten worse because of the current administration. It is simply a trend that started when business decided that Washington DC was a place to spend money. According to “Winner-Take-All-Politics,” Hacker and Peirson, this took place in 1978 when, and I forget who wrote an impassioned memo to his business colleagues that they needed to take on Washington DC and win. The roots of money in politics is eternal, but has gained momentum starting in 1978. The real ploy of all politics is to suggest it is Repubs against Dems. It is not. It is the Power Elite against the rest of us. It has always been that way. The US Constitution, after being amended, gives us the best chance of overturning the Power Elite. Unfortunately, the Power Elite own all the media outlets and feed right or left wing rubbish as fact.

  • Scott Wolfel

    I don’t disagree Jeff. It’s a long-term trend and both parties and
    the culture that has grown up around DC. The President initially
    campaigned as an outsider and supported campaign finance and lobbying
    reform, but that was quickly dropped. Washington DC spends, and borrows,
    trillions, most going towards transfer payments, and yet it has been
    completely ineffective in accomplishing most progressive social goals.
    My point was that the progressive left sees government as the solution
    to the problem, but if the government is completely corrupted and
    corrupt on both sides, and we end up with massive, extremely complex
    laws that are rife with special interest provisions on both sides, and
    can often cause as many problems as they attempt to solve, then maybe
    government, as it currently exists, is not the solution to our problems
    and, in fact, can make things worse.

  • Jeff Korenak

    I agree. Great post. If Americans can grasp that regardless of individual citizen’s position, the Power Elite uses Wash DC for it’s own ends. I recently watched the 1960 debate between Kennedy and Nixon. They argued Tax Reform, Universal Health Care, and a few other things that Washington refuses to solve. This Town is a great way to educate the public. Unfortunately, DC lives in another orbit. They do not care about us. Sad state of affairs.

  • Joseph A. Mungai


    British filmmaker Temujin Doran has released a new movie that is based on the book “The Death of the Liberal Class” by Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges. The film, titled “Obey,” explores the rise of the corporate state and the future of obedience in a world filled with unfettered capitalism, worsening inequality and environmental changes.

  • Ollie

    Sad yes but what is the answer? A constitutional amendment or simply somehow eliminate money from elections which I guess is impossible.

  • Judy Clue

    Do they have Housing Authority for the disabled in Washington?

  • Judy Clue

    That’s discrimination and oppression of real Christians as the word ‘liberal’ is in the Bible quite a few times. They hate Liberals? Then they hate Jesus and will end up in fire forever, if they never repent.

  • LIberal Whackjob

    Get off the “both sides” crap. There is only one side: extreme corporatism. Government is people. If it’s bad, it’s the people in it who are bad. The vast majority of people in our government have been bought by the extreme right, no matter what their party affiliation is. That doesn’t make government bad. It makes the way we put people in government bad. Without government, the best you can hope for is a feudal system, And in a feudal system, good-bye to freedom, art, individuality, justice and everything else that doesn’t please our lord Protector, whoever that might be. All private money must be eliminated from elections. Everyone gets the same resources and the same level of free exposure in the media. The revolving door between business and government must be closed. Otherwise, a full-blown plutocracy is all we’ll have, and it’s a steep downhill for democracy and equal justice from there.

  • Woody NinetyNiner Konopak

    The Powell Memorandum, written by soon-to-be SCROTE Justice Lewis Powell, for the US Chamber of Commerce, just prior to his installation as Assoc Justice, in 1971.
    Nixon’s ‘troubles’ impeded his ability to institute the measures Powell called for, but Ford, and then, notoriously, the RAYGOONS, were active advocates.

  • Joseph A. Mungai

    I don’t think Chris Hedges or filmmaker Temujin Doran were being discriminatory. They were reporting on the “sacrafice zones” :

  • Alpha Wolf

    Did you watch the show? Or read the book? BOTH SIDES!

    I didn’t say anything about no government or reverting to feudlism. I said our government and the DC culture is corrupt, decadent and depraved and both parties are fully implicated.

    Our government is the largest, and most lucrative, “business” in the world ($3.54 trillion annually, $6.37 trillion including state and local, the overwhelming majority going to “liberal” programs), so we’re a long way from “no government” or feudalism.

    People are merely responding to the incentives, which are endemic to the DC culture. While ‘”corporatism” is a nice buzzword for the in crowd on the far left, if you follow the money both from government, and the special interests who benefit from that $6.37 trillion, the left is at least as powerful as the right. Last I checked, ideology is pretty evenly distributed in DC, although not as far left as Moyers’ audience, and the richest members of Congress, including a few Plutocrats are on the blue team. The bottom line is that everybody’s got their fingers in the pie and, as long as they can protect what they’ve got and feather their own nests, nobody is going to upset the gravy train.

    I agree with you about removing private money from politics and equal funding, including third parties, but it isn’t going to happen since the foxes are guarding the hen house.

    Obama will retire with his foundation and 8 or 9 figure golden parachute, while still making spellbinding “progressive” speeches, which doesn’t quite qualify him as a “plutocrat,” but is nice work if you can get it.

    Going back to my original point, the modern “left, going back to FDR and Bill’s former boss, has seen government as the solution to our problems, but, like it or not, Leibovich’s book is a scathing critique of our current government and the “Power Elite” on both sides, as Jeff said above. Government spending is now $6.37 trillion, 40.2% of our economy, and we have the highest poverty, etc. since before Bill was at the White House.

    I still think this is a very tough nut for the left, since those they are hoping will “save” us are at the core of the problem. Government is spending 40.2% of our economy (it was 3% or less for the first 150 years) and our country is a mess. What’s wrong with this picture?!?

    As Leibovich says, DC Metro has 7 of the 10 richest counties in the country (it was the ONLY housing) market that didn’t decline in the crisis as well as one of the highest poverty rates and worst school systems in the country….A tale of two cities.

  • LIberal Whackjob

    Get your facts straight, Omega Puppy. Your transparent attempts at disguising right wing talking points so you can peddle them to us are clumsy at best. Government is not a business. It’s goal is not to make a profit. It’s goal is to provide service and protection for the citizens. Liberal programs getting the majority of funds? Are you delusional? Try instead, corporate welfare, the military industrial complex, and the unauditable books of the major federal agencies just for starters. That’s where the money is. And where it isn’t is because of tax cuts for the wealthy and no taxes paid by the ten of the largest corporations doing business in the US. Stop trying to pretend to sound balanced in your prejudices. You’re terrible at it. As far as corruption in DC goes, yes, lots. But there is only one “side” and that’s the corporatists’ side. Big business controls our federal and state governments and there is no liberal about it. Democrats and Republicans are now two very similar sides of the same coin, because after Reagan’s election the Democrats decided that they too wanted corporate monies and they can’t scramble fast enough these days to bend over for it. Following your sorry logic regarding government, you might as well argue that if there are bad fathers, then fatherhood must be the problem. Get rid of the influence of corporate money in government, assure that the people have real choices in their elections, and there will be no problem with government, despite the cherished fantasy of the extreme right. The right wing hates democratic government because it wants unfettered opportunities to do business without pesky health, safety and fraud regulations, regardless of the physical and fiscal costs to the rest of us. Period. That’s the bottom line. But you not only know that, you’re counting on it, aren’t you? You seem to be a troll that was chosen for his pseudo-intellect to linger around Moyers to try to appear fair and logical while spreading conservative drivel. Such a pity that you’re rather bad at every aspect of it.

  • Robin

    We need to over-turn the unbelievable SCOTUS Citizen’s United decision then go on to funding for elections. We need more statesmen/women not money grubbers. Wish there was a litmus test for candidates.

  • borisbadenovisback

    Books like this and Diana West’s “American Betrayal” deserve a LOT more attention but guess what? Ain’t gonna happen anytime soon. Mark Leibovich will not be completely ignored like Diana West but, if he keeps up this sort of thing, he’ll be on the outside looking in. For the time being, Boris applauds his courage and character.

  • Al of Oak Harbor

    I’d like to know how I could get a printed version of Bill’s closing comments on today’s program. It was locked and loaded with truth and needs to be given a bigger audience, one with anger and action on their mind.

  • Al of Oak Harbor

    A government of, by, and for the people just isn’t likely to be a darn bit better than the people. We need to take a good look at ourselves too. In religious terms, we need a revival. In real terms, we need a revival. In any other terms, we need a revival. Thank goodness for revivalists like Bill Moyers. His message needs to be heard, believed, and acted on.

  • Diana West

    Thanks for the mention!

  • Torr

    I too, would like to get a printed version.