Does the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) threaten American democracy? This 2002 episode of NOW with Bill Moyers reported on a little-known NAFTA provision, called Chapter 11, that was designed to protect investors if foreign governments tried to seize their property. Some foreign companies began using it to challenge American laws, regulations and jury verdicts.
Another segment profiled “The Invisible Ones” — undocumented workers who are victims of Sept. 11. What is the fate of these victims of the World Trade Center tragedy and how should America respond? You can access the original Web page for this program at the archived NOW with Bill Moyers website.
BILL MOYERS: Welcome to NOW.
The fall of Enron raises questions about the State of the Union that most of official Washington didn’t want to talk about this week.
The stakes in the scandal were raised, nonetheless, when the investigative arm of Congress, the General Accounting Office, headed by a Republican, said Vice President Cheney must make public the identity of the people outside of government who helped him write the new energy policy. Enron’s fingerprints are all over it, but Cheney’s not telling how they got there.
Enron’s former boss, Kenneth Lay, has admitted he met with Cheney. You’ll hear that now in our first report.
The journalist and investigator Lowell Bergman, reporting for both FRONTLINE and THE NEW YORK TIMES, called on Lay last year for a documentary about energy.
That interview, including some things that didn’t make air at the time, suggests why Vice President Cheney would prefer to keep the whole affair off the record.
LOWELL BERGMAN: This memorandum, obtained by THE NEW YORK TIMES, is what Enron used to talk to Vice President Cheney in that private meeting of April 17 of last year.
It describes what Ken Lay and Enron wanted from the Vice President’s national energy strategy task force.
BERGMAN: You did meet with Ken Lay.
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY (TAPE FROM FRONTLINE): Ken has been a friend. I was once involved in building a baseball stadium for Ken Lay. It didn’t have anything to do with energy. This time around when he came in to see me, he did want to talk about energy.
BERGMAN: On the top of Ken Lay’s agenda in that meeting was what Enron calls fair transmission access, meaning opening up the 100,000 miles of electric transmission lines in the United States.
If they could get federal intervention to open up the patchwork of public and private lines, Enron and other energy traders could do more business and make more money.
BERGMAN: The transmission grid is of primary importance to you, right?
LAY: High voltage backbone for the electric industry. It’s kind of like a super highway system for electricity. It moves electricity around the states and around the country.
BERGMAN: What makes Ken Lay’s visit in April so remarkable in the midst of the energy crisis in California is that he was the only chief executive of a major player in the electric power industry to confer privately with Vice President Cheney as he formulated his national energy strategy.
Ken Lay says he didn’t know that he was the only one.
LAY: Well, I didn’t know that until this moment.
BERGMAN: It puts you in a class of one.
LAY: I’m flattered that he decided to meet with me, and at least hear me out as to some of the things that I thought were pretty important that should be considered for his report.
BERGMAN: Ken Lay didn’t just meet with Vice President Cheney; he took his number-one priority — opening up that electric transmission grid — to the White House.
LAY: I have… I had two or three meetings with various people in the White House on the whole issue of energy policy.
That did include some discussion about, in fact, the inter-state transmission grid and how we thought it could be made to operate more efficiently.
BERGMAN: Did you meet with the President and speak with him about energy policy?
LAY: I did not.
I mean, I’ve been in a couple of meetings with other C.E.O.s where he’s asked questions about the general economy, where he’s asked questions about energy and I’ve commented on it.
But I have not had any separate meeting or private meeting or telephone conversation with the President about it.
BERGMAN: Ken Lay may not have talked with the President about his wish list, but while he was in the White House he did bring along a list of nominees for the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (F.E.R.C.). The only agency that has control over the electric transmission grid and Enron’s main business: trading energy.
The people we’ve spoken to have said that you brought a list of your nominees, your favorites for the F.E.R.C. into the White House.
LAY: I brought a list. We certainly presented a list, and I think that was by way of letter. As I recall I signed a letter which, in fact, had some recommendations as to people that we thought would be good commissioners.
BERGMAN: We understand that you personally interviewed some of the potential nominees at least on the phone or otherwise.
LAY: I’m not sure I ever personally interviewed any of them but I think in fact there were conversations between at least some of them and some of my people from time to time.
BERGMAN: In fact, later in this interview we conducted last May, Ken Lay acknowledged that he had phone conversations with potential nominees.
And he also said he had spoken with then Chairman of the F.E.R.C. Curt Hebert who has disagreed with Ken Lay and Enron about forcing access to that electricity grid.
BERGMAN: Has Ken Lay called you?
CURTIS HEBERT: I talked with Ken Lay on the phone and in private.
BERGMAN: How often have you spoken with Curt Hebert since the inauguration?
LAY: I think two or three times.
BERGMAN: Has any other C.E.O. of any company ever called you privately to lobby their position other than Ken Lay?
BERGMAN: We’ve been told that he, in fact, says things like, “I’ll help you with what you need politically,” let’s say staying on as chairman of the F.E.R.C., if you’ll go along with me on this policy issue.
Has that ever happened?
HEBERT: I would never make that trade.
BERGMAN: Did he ever propose such a trade?
HEBERT: I would just say that I will never make such a trade.
I think he would be a much bigger supporter of mine if I was willing to do what he wanted me to do.
BERGMAN: He reflects a certain attitude because he is in a sense the only C.E.O. or the only head of a major company to have done this; is that correct?
HEBERT: It’s correct that he’s the only C.E.O., I guess, that has asked me to take certain positions.
But I’ve had those conversations with Ken Lay for a long time and have disagreed with him for a long time.
BERGMAN: Do you think your disagreement may result in your not being Chairman anymore?
HEBERT: I think the President will make the decision on whether or not I remain to be chairman.
I serve at the will and the pleasure of the President not Ken Lay.
BERGMAN: And in a subsequent interview published in THE NEW YORK TIMES, Curt Hebert said he was offended by Ken Lay’s overture.
LAY: I suppose Curt is entitled to believe whatever Curt believes. Curt is a very, very capable individual.
I’m quite sure I did not in that conversation, as I would not, say that if you can’t agree to this, then we can’t support you.
I think I did say in that conversation that clearly whoever became Chairman would ultimately be decided by the President, not by Ken Lay, not by Enron, not by anybody else.
BERGMAN: So we asked Vice President Cheney, did Ken Lay talk to him about Curt Hebert?
Did he talk with you about who was running the F.E.R.C.
BERGMAN: He never raised a question about his dissatisfaction with Mr. Hebert.
BERGMAN: He never talked about replacing Mr. Hebert with Mr. Wood?
BERGMAN: Mr. Wood is Pat Wood, long an Enron favorite.
In this 1994 letter, Ken Lay wrote to then Governor-elect George W. Bush recommending Mr. Wood.
In our interview last May, Vice President Cheney was already referring to Mr. Wood as the Vhairman, long before any public announcement.
CHENEY: Pat Wood has got to be the new Chairman of F.E.R.C.
BERGMAN: Off camera the Vice President confirmed that Mr. Hebert was history and Nr. Wood a supporter of opening up the transmission grid, was to be the new Chairman of the F.E.R.C..
BERGMAN: I’ve talked to the Vice President.
He says Pat Wood will be the new Chairman. Sounds like Ken Lay is getting his way.
HEBERT: He might.
This would be the first knowledge I’ve had if Pat Wood is, in fact, to be Chairman.
BERGMAN: Three months after this interview President Bush named Pat Wood Chairman of the F.E.R.C.
While Ken Lay did not get everything that he wanted from the Vice President in his national energy strategy, he did get his number one wish: a recommendation to open up the electric transmission grid and force the states and the utilities to comply.
We talked with the lobbying group for the utilities, Enron’s rival, the Edison Institute, about their access and influence in the Bush administration.
We asked them, did you submit a list, for instance, of nominees for the F.E.R.C?
They didn’t do it.
And have you ever are any direct conversations with Curt Hebert about policy questions and they say they don’t do that.
LAY: Well, I’d be very surprised with… I’m very surprised with all those answers.
BERGMAN: You don’t believe them?
BERGMAN: Whatever Enron’s rivals were doing, Ken Lay and Enron have never been shy about exercising their political muscle. Which was essential to their meteoric rise to number seven on the Fortune 500 list.
Changing the laws and regulations in Washington and the 50 states was the key to Enron’s success and Ken Lay told us he’s always had to have friends on both sides of the aisle.
LAY: We had a lot of access in the Clinton administration.
I mean, we were able to certainly… Secretary Richardson called on me and Enron on a number of occasions to at least discuss different energy matters and certainly Secretary Rubin on other matters.
BERGMAN: It isn’t true that you are the closet Secretary of Energy?
LAY: I am not the closet anything.
Of course, the good news is that this administration has some very, very capable people, particularly in the energy area, starting with the Secretary of Energy, but obviously also people like Dick Cheney and Don Evans as well as the President himself that knows a lot about energy.
BERGMAN: Ken Lay and his fellow Enron executives have been the biggest contributors to George W. Bush’s political career.
But you understand that people would have this idea that people with power, the C.E.O.s, the people who have contributed to your campaigns, the people who mention your name in interviews that we do — because they’ve gone hunting with you or fishing with you….
CHENEY: Yeah, I mean that’s the conspiracy theory of public policy. It’s irresponsible. It’s not true.
Some politicians promote it because it’s easier than dealing with substance. I mean, I went out and got elected with the President of the United States. We got on the ticket. The the American people got to choose and they picked us, a very close election obviously but now our job is to govern.
BERGMAN: Informed of this report, the White House last night confirmed that two people on Ken Lay’s list — Pat Wood and Nora Brown — were in fact picked by President Bush for seats on the F.E.R.C..
MOYERS: Next week Kenneth Lay will testify for two Congressional investigative committees.
Among other things, they’ll want the answer to this mystery.
The final draft of the energy bill that emerged from the White House contained language encouraging energy development in India, where Enron had a plant that was losing money.
The provision was not in the original draft, which was allegedly written before Kenneth Lay’s secret meetings with Vice President Cheney.
The Vice President then reportedly interceded with the Indian government in behalf of Enron.
How did America’s second most powerful official in government turn to lobbying for the single biggest contributor to President Bush’s political career?
There are other mysteries government would prefer not to talk about these days.
Like those secret tribunals set up when the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, became law ten years ago.
You’ve heard of NAFTA, but odds are you haven’t heard of the provision in the treaty called Chapter 11.
It seemed like a good idea at the time to protect investors if a foreign government tried to seize their assets, but only a few well-placed lawyers could imagine how foreign corporations could use it to attack health and environmental protections, and then pass the cost to you, all in secret.
Just look at what’s happened in California.
It begins with a chemical, MTBE, that was added to gasoline to help the state clean up its air.
But MTBE then was found to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
And in 1995, it began to show up in drinking water.
In a trailer park 20 miles north of San Francisco, the chemical was found in the community’s well.
EYVONNE WATTS: We received a notice saying that MTBE was in the water.
As I began to find out more information about it, I was really concerned, because I was like, you know, “what is the long-term effect for my children?”
The water that’s being used to cool the house off is the same contaminated water. We’re breathing the water. The kids are walking around fine now, but who’s to say that won’t affect them later?
I’m supposed to protect them in every way. They can’t fight for themselves. That’s why I’m here. So it’s just kind of like okay, how do I fight against something that we don’t know what the long-term effect is of MTBE. And no real straight answers?
MOYERS: The questions spread across the state.
South Lake Tahoe, with an economy dependent on tourists, discovered MTBE in its drinking water.
RICK HYDRICK (MANAGER, WATER OPERATIONS, SOUTH LAKE TAHOE PUBLIC UTILITY DISTRICT): The clarity of Lake Tahoe is legendary, or it was.
One of our board members asked me what I knew about MTBE, and I said nothing.
And he said, “well, I heard about it. It’s a fuel additive, and it may be a problem.”
And maybe just a few months later, we got our first MTBE hits to the public water supply.
MOYERS: The water department traced the source first to one gas station, then to more than half a dozen. Even the newest, most modern station in town found an MTBE leak the size of a pinpoint.
CASEY MOSS (CO-OWNER, CHEVRON WAY): Within this corner right here, you have three sites that are contaminated right now. There’s one gas station, a previous gas station, and our gas station.
I lived here my whole life, and the last thing I want to do is contaminate the place where I live and my kids and my family are going to live.
So that’s why we wanted to jump on it and start cleaning it up as soon as we could.
MOYERS: But MTBE spreads through water faster than the money can be spent to clean it up.
In the end, South Lake Tahoe was forced to shut down a third of its wells.
Across California, 30 public water systems and another 10,000 groundwater sites were eventually found to be contaminated.
HYDRICK: As long as it’s in gasoline in the world that we live in, it will get into water — a lot.
SENATOR SHEILA KUEHL (CHAIR, CALIFORNIA INTERNATIONAL TRADE POLICY COMMITTEE): This was an epidemic of MTBE sort of infection, and that caused our legislature to want to consider a total ban.
MOYERS: Senator Sheila Kuehl chairs a committee examining the impact of U.S. trade agreements on California laws.
The legislatures commissioned University of California scientists to study the MTBE problem.
Their report warned that the state was placing “our limited water resources at risk by using MTBE”
KUEHL: We were not going to act precipitously. We wanted to see the science. And having reviewed the report, I think the governor and the legislature were both equally convinced that this was good science, that there was harm. There were independent studies about the health effects of MTBE. This was not political.
MOYERS: On March 25, 1999, California’s governor ordered that MTBE be phased out of all gasoline sold in the state.
But that order didn’t sit well with Methanex, a Canadian company that is the world’s largest producer of the key ingredient in MTBE. Within months, Methanex invoked NAFTA’s Chapter 11 and claimed that its market share and, therefore, its future profits were being taken away, expropriated by the Governor’s action.
Allow us to sell MTBE for gasoline in California, the company argued, or pay us $970 million in compensation.
MARTIN WAGNER (ATTORNEY, EARTHJUSTICE LEGAL DEFENSE FUND): This is incredible. This is a foreign corporation coming in and saying first of all, that a regulation that the government of California, through normal democratic processes, has decided is important to protect health and the environment, they’re saying that California either can’t implement this protection or that they get $1 billion.
People should be outraged by that.
MOYERS: Martin Wagner represents three environmental groups who lobbied for the MTBE ban.
He never expected that action to be challenged under NAFTA.
WAGNER: One of the things this law does is give corporations sort of a guarantee that they won’t suffer from the gamble that they take normally, that they take as being part of the economic marketplace.
If they gamble that, they’re going to be able to sell their product, but it turns out that their product is harmful, they’re claiming that this investment provision protects them against that gamble, that they should get to make their profits anyway.
MOYERS: While NAFTA may protect investors like Methanex, who declined to talk to us, it does not protect ordinary people, like Chris Christiansen and his wife, Claudia.
A decade ago, they used their life savings to buy the home where they would retire.
CLAUDIA CHRISTIANSEN: With MTBE, it’s been totally devastating to us. The biggest devastation is everything you’ve worked for is not worth anything now. You cannot sell this property because it has a contaminated domestic well.
You lose everything you’ve put into a home because you can’t sell. That haunts me at night.
MOYERS: The NAFTA tribunal will meet to consider the Methanex claim.
It will meet in secret. Citizens of California, like the Christiansens, will not be invited; nor will the taxpayers who will foot the bill if the tribunal decides in favor of the Canadian company.
NAFTA makes no provisions for a full appeal to U.S. courts and sets no caps on the amount of damages that can be awarded a corporation.
KUEHL: So boom, you know, United States tax money goes to Methanex, and then the United States has to decide a couple of things.
Do they want to get the money back from California, which they could?
Do they want to hold federal money back from California so that they keep $1 billion that California otherwise would have gotten for its welfare-to-work program, healthy families, anything?Well, they could.
Would they like to call the Governor and say, “you know, you ought to do away with that pesky ban because it costs us $1 billion and now, who knows what else is going to happen under Chapter 11? Perhaps you ought to review all of your laws that might be a threat to Chapter 11.”
WILLIAM GREIDER (NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, THE NATION): If Methanex wins its billion- dollar claim over California environmental law, there aren’t going to be many states enacting that law, are there?
Many of the critics think the really essential point is that this legal system hobbles the authority of government to act in the broader public interest. And, in fact, that was the idea in the first place.
Governments are already being intimidated by the mere threat of a claim being filed against some regulatory action.
If you’re a civil servant, or even a political leader, you’ve got to think twice when a corporate lawyer comes to you and says, quite forcefully, “we’re going to… We’re going to hit you for half a billion dollars, if you do this.”
MOYERS: At least 80 California laws could be at risk.
State regulations that restrict development in scenic areas or coastal zones, for example, are open to challenge by a foreign developer.
Enacting more stringent laws about what can be added to California wine, or what can be labeled organically grown food could be challenged.
The authority to limit commercial fishing when fish are scarce could provoke claims from foreign-owned fleets.
Even state support for alternative energy could come into conflict with trade rules.
KUEHL: We are experimenters in democracy.
We’re certainly accountable to our own people and constituents, but I think if there is a threat to the ability of our 50 states to legislate in these arenas, it’s a very, very serious thing; and especially if the threat is because of a single or a couple of investors in a company who are not themselves nationals of the United States.
It’s… democracy goes out the window.
MOYERS: there’s more to the story than you’ve just seen.
And there’s more to know about Chapter 11 than the people who wrote it ever wanted you to know.
You can turn the tables on them by watching our documentary special TRADING DEMOCRACY.
Next Tuesday evening on most PBS stations.
Check your local listings on pbs.org.
In New York this week, free trade is just one of the subjects on the agenda of the world economic forum.
3,000 of the global elite are here, rubbing shoulders and networking, the Vatican of globilization.
As usual, the protestors are here, too, urging the powers that be to remember democracy as they slice up the new world order.
Benjamin Barber wrote the book on the new world order, called it JIHAD VS. MCWORLD, HOW TERROR IS CHALLENGING DEMOCRACY,” and he wrote it before September 11. Call him prescient or call him a professor, he’s both. And he’s one of the leading thinkers about democracy.
Thank you for joining us.
You are speaking three times at the world economic forum. Does that feel you’ve been invited into the belly of the beast?
BENJAMIN BARBER: Well, I have been along with 50 religious leaders from around the world.
I’m not sure the corporate leaders have got religion, but they’ve figured out that it’s relevant in a way that perhaps before 9/11 they never realized.
MOYERS: As you make your way to and from the place where the conference is being held you’re passing through all those protesters. What do they want?
BARBER: I think the single word that captures what is a diverse group — like any groups there are a lot of different folks, and or kifts, Socialists, Green, union folks, syndicalists — a lot of different people.
I think if you needed one word to describe them, the word would have to be democracy.
Where is the democracy of the new world?
We know where the corporations are.
We know where the interest of investors are.
We know where the interest of those who trade in commodities and financial capital are.
Where is democracy?
MOYERS: I talked to one of the leading activists about a week ago. As he was getting ready to come to the conference. He said as they write the rules of the new world order we just want to make sure they make the world safe for democracy?
BARBER: In fact, they’re making the world less safe for democracy.
MOYERS: How so?
BARBER: Because what they are doing is taking it away from sovereign nation states which have historically been the guardians and keepers of democracy, they’re taking away their power to regulate and make the rules and putting it into the hands of new international institutions, which institutions themselves, however, are far less democratic than the nation- states where the rules were originally made.
In that sense they’re not just globalizing the economy, they’re dedemocratizing the economy at the same time.
MOYERS: But the underlying assumption of globalization is that capital must be free to go where it wants and do what it wishes so that the spreading wealth will lift all the votes.
BARBER: That’s the mythology, but of course the reality of capitalism historically has been its synergistic interaction with democracy.
MOYERS: What do you mean?
BARBER: It has flourished in Britain, France and the United States through the 19th and 20th centuries because it’s had the tight relationship to the series of democratic institutions which have regulated it and prevented it from being destroyed by its own contradictions, which has done something on its behalf that it does badly.
Capitalism is great at production, lousy at distribution.
What this democratic state has done is help redistribute the profits and the rewards of capitalism to spread them evenly.
It’s also protected us at the local level from the savage face of capitalism because capitalism’s productivity can be a savage and brutal thing.
MOYERS: Do you think it’s possible to write the rules of the new world order to promote globalization that are fair to corporations and fair to the environment, to workers, to democratic institutions.
BARBER: Sure we can. We’ve been doing it in the United States for the last 100 years. It’s a contest that goes back and forth.
Sometimes the corporations get the upper hand the market gets the upper hand. That’s where the conservatives and the Tories are in power.
Sometimes regulation in the interest of the people and welfare and social safety nets get the upper hand, that’s when Roosevelt and the Great Society are there.
We go back and forth. But over time we do it decently. There is no such dialectic in the international realm. It’s only the corporate interest. It’s only the banking interest. It’s only the interest of the market. The voice of the people is silent, is absent.
MOYERS: You saw that report on Chapter 11. What happens to your hopes for democracy when the system appears to so many people, including yours truly, to be rigged that way.
BARBER: There’s a kind of a pretense here.
The pretense is that we have an international privatized market in which there are no rules and no regulations. That it’s a genuine entrepreneurial sector. But that’s not true. There are rules. There are regulations. Chapter 11 is one set of regulations that in effect protect investors, often at the expense of ecology, of safety, for a local population.
The W.T.O. provision….
MOYERS: The World Trade Organization.
BARBER: The World Trade Organization provision on boycotts does the same thing. It says if Americans organize, say, to bar Indian rugs made by child slave labor in India from coming in here that’s an illegal boycott and the United States will be penalized if it permits that boycott to interfere with the rug trade from India.
Once again we have international rules but rules that favor and are made by corporations’ interest not by the democratic peoples around the world who have to live with the consequences.
But starting on September 12, the world changed profoundly not just for you and me and the American people and people around the world but for the multi-national corporations and multi-national banks because what happened on September 11 is that globalization showed its malevolent face.
It suddenly became apparent to corporations that a world of and anarchic markets without democratic regulations without an international criminal tribunal was a world in which terrorists could operate even more effectively than multi-national corporations.
That’s why this weekend in New York, 50 religious leaders from around the world, are meeting with the corporations.
That’s why I think people like me, civic democrats, idealists, were invited. I think after September 11, there is a new political realism. And the name of that political realism is democracy.
MOYERS: Ben, Ben, Ben, within 24 hours after the World Trade Center, the corporations were in there with bills in Congress that attempted to attach to the defense bill.
Here young Americans were about to be sent in harm’s way this far places like Afghanistan.
And these energy corporations were in there with their rented politicians in Congress proposing amendments to the defense bill to provide huge billion-dollar subsidies to some of America’s richest corporations.
BARBER: In that same week a number of interesting things happened.
First of all on September 12, not one American, not one politician called Bill Gates or Michael Eisner and said help us out of our plight. “What are we going to do?”
A week after the downing of those buildings President Bush and the Republicans who had made a fetish of not paying the United Nations’ dues paid the U.N. dues that the U.S. owed.
They began to talk in, for them, unusual multi-lateral terms. Colin Powell, Secretary Powell, began to say we need a coalition of nations.
And the first thing these corporations did planning for Davos (Switzerland). Said let’s move in.
Davos is where for 27 years these corporate guys have met in a little charming alpine resort away from the eye of the media, away from the world where they can do their deals and networking and so on.
They moved it to New York in part as a tribute to New York, in part because they needed the attention.
MOYERS: You’re saying the world economic conference came here for the same reason that the terrorists came here: because it’s conspicuous. It’s the place to make your point.
BARBER: It’s the very thing they hadn’t wanted: transparency. They’ve invited transparency and they’ve done it also by inviting interlocutors, people who talk with them who come from a different segment from those they normally invite.
I would say very simply they are running scared. Wouldn’t you?
One thing we can all agree, terrorism is bad for democracy but it’s even worse for business.
Ask business how they fared, ask the economy how they fared, terrorism, the very anarchy of globalization which these corporations have welcomed for years suddenly showed its dark side, its perverse side, its anti-business side.
Now corporations themselves are asking, we need government cooperation.
MOYERS: When do you expect the multi-national corporations to go back to Congress and say we’ve been rethinking Chapter 11. We want to democratize it we want to ameliorate the effects of Chapter 11.
BARBER: They won’t lift a finger, Bill, to do that.
But what may happen is if the American people figure out, helped along about documentaries by this, that there are rules out there in the new global world which privilege the corporations and prejudice the interest of the American people and the Mexican people and the Canadian people and start to do something about it, the corporations will say, “well, that’s the cost of doing business in a modern world where terrorists also operate in the war on terror, you can say democracy has taken on fundamentalism and terrorism.
It’s now time for democracy with equal force and equal strength to take on global markets, to take on global corporations, to take on the and anarchic side of globalization that is economic and not just fundamentalism.
MOYERS: You’re calling for something akin to the Reformation several hundred years ago.
For years now the ruling ideology, the ruling religion of America has been free market.
Its god and profit. Its heaven is the corporate board room. Its hell is regulation. Its Bible is THE WALL STREET JOURNAL. Its choir of angels is the corporate media.
You’ve got a religion in this country of free markets that is established in the political culture as well. How do you expect to have a Reformation?
BARBER: Because we have the great and perverse assistance now of a new anti-prophet named Osama bin Laden. We have September 11.
We have seen suddenly and abruptly the perverse animal and malevolent side of globalization, of anarchy of a world without rules of a world in which the United States refuses to play ball with the new international criminal tribunal which is now not available to deal with terrorists. The corporations have seen it too and they are scared.
President Bush who came in after all as a kind of fraternity boy interested primarily in seeing to it that the economic interest that had supported him and he had supported would have free reign has suddenly become an apostle of strong government.
Yes in the name of a war on terrorism but many different dimensions of that war point back to a relegitimation of our democratic institutions.
The President in the State of the Union said this is going on, folks. This is a long war. This was isn’t over.
He even hinted toward the end of the speech that it was a war that would require volunteer citizens doing community service, that would require other things than just military actions.
MOYERS: To beat my favorite dead horse — poor thing — can we do what you’re talking about unless we break the grip of money on our political system?
BARBER:No, I would say if there’s one thing we first have to do it’s to do genuine and real campaign finance reform because if the money interests in America, the powerful corporate interests in America through money control the government that in turn controls the international organization like the World Trade Organization, like the International Monetary Fund, like the NAFTA treaties and the regulations there, then there’s a vicious circle because in effect they don’t have to buy the international regulations, they buy the governments here and let our government buy the international regulations on their behalf.
It’s that vicious cycle that I think we now have a potential to break because of the events of September 11 and their aftermath.
MOYERS: What is your answer or your response to Italy’s Berlusconi or America’s Henry Kissinger who say that to pursue democratic values as Benjamin Barber is proposing, to pursue democratic values in this kind of world is to undermine our true national interest.
BARBER: Well, people like Sam Huntington and his clash of civilizations have argued and Berlusconi Prime Minister, the Conservative, the almost Neo Fascist Prime Minister of Italy has argued that the West alone is democratic.
Islam and the rest of the world is not democratic. This is a clash between democracy and Islam. The West and the rest.
But that goes back to a long ancient quarrel in the democratic tradition. There’s two kinds of democrats. Democracy for me and mine.
The Athenians, a few of them were citizens and everybody else were slaves. The American founders us white men with property, we’re good democratic citizens but women, blacks, slaves, non-property owning whites, not good citizens.
And those who have believed in what I believe is the true democratic tradition that democracy is the right of every man woman and child to be engaged in acts of self-governance, that every living human wants to govern his and her own life and wants to participate in the communities of power that govern them.
In other words, democracy is a claim not that I run my life — and I have a right to — but that we all have exactly the same right.
It’s a universal claim. That’s the claim I’m betting on. It’s not just idealism. That’s the new realism.
The new realism says whether or not you agree with Barber on this, we will not have our democracy unless they find a democracy in Palestinian and Afghanistan.
There are no walls high enough to keep out the perils of a world full of injustice and inequality.
There are no oceans wide enough, no walls high enough to separate us from that world. That means that the new inter-dependence which is the essence of globalization means we can’t have democracy by ourselves.
We all get it around the world or in time we lose ours.
MOYERS: Thank you very much, Benjamin Barber for being with us.
We have to get you back now to the belly of the beast.
BARBER: Thanks a lot.
MOYERS: Here in New York, the conversation about the victims of September 11 has taken a new turn, from expressions of grief to charges of greed. The compensation fund from the federal government is over $6 billion, some $1.6 million for each victim. And sharp and angry words can be heard about who should get more, or less. It’s brought its own kind of pain, this trying to decide the monetary value of a life. (Read more about immigration in America.)
Others who are grieving have a different problem.
They’re officially invisible, and it’s hard to confirm their life or their death.
CHINO: I was right there.
I was this close to the towers when the first collapse happened. But at that moment I said, “Oh, my god, I’m going to die. I’m going to die.”
MOYERS: His name is Chino, and running for his life that day, he snapped these photographs.
CHINO: This is, like, seconds before I took the last pictures of this, that building comes down. So that’s it.
MOYERS: His life was spared, but not his livelihood. The restaurant where he worked as a waiter was so damaged that it closed. He later injured his foot in a household accident and now hobbles back to ground zero.
CHINO: Believe me, it’s not easy to forget whatever you did for 11 years, especially when the whole money you make to support your family you get it from here.
MOYERS: Chino came here from Mexico. He came without papers, illegally, so he is not eligible for most government assistance. Out of work, he turned to the Red Cross.
CHINO: They helped me, but only for one time, for one month. And then I tried to go to unemployment, and they say, “I’m sorry, we cannot help you because you don’t have any permit to work or green card.”
MOYERS: While looking for work, Chino helps out at Asociacion Tepeyac. The group is aiding illegal immigrants and their families affected by 9/11.
About half of the estimated seven million illegal immigrants in the United States are from Mexico. And the Mexican President wants to legalize their presence here.
MEXICAN PRESIDENT FOX: Let me be clear about this, regularization does not mean rewarding those who break the law.
Regularization means that we will provide them with the legal means to allow them to continue contributing to this great nation.
MOYERS: The appeal Vicente Fox made to a joint session of Congress four days before 9/11 got a sympathetic hearing from President Bush.
A U.S. partnership with Mexico was a top priority for President Bush before the terrorist attacks. Now, plans for immigration reform have been put on hold.
Undocumented immigrants remain in the twilight zone of the American economy.
CHINO: I do my taxes every year, and I say, “why I cannot get my money back, especially now when I need it?” And that’s a big problem.
MOYERS: Taxes are actually deducted from the paychecks of many undocumented workers. Because they use fake I.D. Cards, they don’t qualify for benefits citizens receive. Other illegals are paid off the books.
Half the workers in restaurants, bars, flower shops, and magazine stands near ground zero were said to be there illegally.
The families of some who died that morning can’t even get private aid because they can’t prove where their loved ones worked.
FELIX (TRANSLATED): All I knew was he worked there. He never told me what he did. He worked in two places, a pizza place and downstairs in a newspaper stand.
MOYERS: Félix was home in Puebla, Mexico, when she heard of the terrorist attacks. She knew that her boyfriend, Jose, was working somewhere around the World Trade Center.
FELIX (TRANS.): He came here because we had nothing there. He said that he’d just come and we’d make a little nest egg and then he’d be coming back.
MOYERS: She learned that Jose had gone to work on the morning of September 11 and never returned. Félix is pregnant, can’t read or write, and speaks no English. She paid a coyote, a smuggler, $1,600 to get her across the border.
Once in New York, she was helpless.
FELIX (TRANS.): I have no papers. I have nothing.
CARMINA MAKAR: We started to file a missing persons report, but it was difficult because she doesn’t have any documents either for herself or him.
MOYERS: Carmina Makar works for the immigrant aid group Asociacion Tepeyac. Her job is to look for the missing.
MAKAR: He’s just one more of all the undocumented people that were there and are not being recognized.
MOYERS: Some former employers won’t identify the missing out of fear that the government will penalize them for hiring illegal workers.
But owners of the restaurant Windows on the World took the lead in establishing a relief fund for restaurant workers.
Carmen’s husband Manuel came without papers to be a cook at the restaurant that was atop the World Trade Center.
CARMEN (TRANS.): He worked extremely hard to provide us with a better life than the one we had.
It’s our dream to have a future in America.
MOYERS: Even without a green card, Manuel was able to join Local 100.
Now, the union argues Carmen’s case.
BILL GRANFIELD, PRESIDENT HOTEL EMPLOYEES AND RESTAURANT EMPLOYEES LOCAL 100: The terrorists went after working America in all its diversity.
That was part of the target, and we can’t stand by and let some of those victims fall by the wayside.
MOYERS: Six years ago Carmen left three of her children with relatives in Ecuador and came to join her husband in New York.
CARMEN: He said, “fighting, you achieve things here in this country.”
And it was his dream to remain forever in this country.
MOYERS: The union negotiated to allow Carmen’s children to join her and her youngest child in New York.
The union also gave her a life insurance check for $15,000.
And then better news: the Red Cross called the union office and told Carmen she would receive $50,000 for her children’s support.
GRANFIELD: They’re deserving of support and help from the government just like all the other victims, and it’s discriminatory to not give them help, and probably a terrible way to fight the war against terrorism.
MOYERS: Chino, too, has been told he will get more help from the Red Cross.
CHINO: Now they are more flexible.
They’re going to help me for three months to help pay my rent and give me some money for groceries for my kids and everything.
MOYERS: And even bigger news: the man in charge of victim compensation for the federal government announced this month that families of illegal immigrants who come forward will not risk imprisonment or deportation.
KENNETH FEINBERG, SPECIAL MASTER SEPTEMBER 11TH VICTIM COMPENSATION FUND OF 2001: That is the number one issue on my plate right now, the undocumented alien situation.
They’re eligible clearly, but we’ve got to do something to make sure they’re protected.
MOYERS: Despite those assurances, many immigrants remain afraid.
That’s why we have not used the full names of people we interviewed, like Carmen.
CARMEN: Even at the beginning I was afraid to go ask for help.
I didn’t even have money for a token.
MOYERS: For the moment, they find solace, as so many other grieving survivors have, in their faith.
The people they loved are gone, some without a trace to show they were ever here. How many were there? We’ll never know how many invisible immigrants died on September 11. 100, 200, more. No one can say for certain. What is for certain is that the people keep coming.
VOICES: PERRY, IOWA
MOYERS: Even to Perry, Iowa, population 7,244.
Settled originally by European immigrants, it is now almost one-third Hispanic. Most of them are employed in the world’s largest meat-packing plant.
Because many of them are illegal aliens, they didn’t want to be interviewed. But here are the voices of some of their neighbors.
We asked how are these new immigrants affecting the town?
DONNA EMMERT: There’s no doubt that it’s had a major effect on our town, and I’m sure many people could see both positive and negatives, and yet we try very hard to look for the positives.
BILL TROTTER: It’s helping Perry’s economy to have these people come into our town and make it their home and make America their place to live.
RITA SMITHSON: Well, they’re certainly changing it.
DEANNA LUFKINS: Sometimes I feel out of place because there’s more Spanish people here than I’ve ever seen.
GORDON NOLAN: Well, I think it can be something that can be very positive.
CHARLENE VAN GUNDY: Depends on how they present themselves to me. Yeah, it can be hard.
RONALD JANOVICK: With good there’s always bad. Language is sometimes a barrier.
HARLON FITZGERALD: I think it downgrades it somewhat. There’s a difference in the Spanish people, like any other race. I suppose there’s good and there’s bad in all of them.
JON ACTON: If they want to be an American, they need to side with the united states on any issues.
STEPHANIE FRANCIS: In my opinion, our culture only gets better when we invite people of other cultures to come and join us.
RAY JAMES: They can come over here and live for so long and not have to pay taxes and not have to have a driver’s license, not have to do this.
I don’t think that’s right. If you come here, you’re going to be an American, let’s speak American, let’s be an American.
POET SHIRLEY GEOK-LIN LIM
MOYERS: What does it take to be an American?
Well, let us count the ways.
Two years ago I listened to the poet Shirley Geok-lin Lim talk about arriving in America shabby, uprooted, and poor, and how she struggled to find a place for herself in the overwhelming strangeness of our culture.
She’s from Malaysia, of Chinese descent, now an accomplished professor and honored poet, finally at home among “The White Moon Faces.”
Here is her poem, “learning to love America.”
LIM: “Learning to love America”
because it has no pure products
because the Pacific Ocean sweeps along the coastline
because the water of the ocean is cold
and because land is better than ocean
because I say we rather than they
because I live in California
I have eaten fresh artichokes
and jacarandas bloom in April and May
because my senses have caught up with my body
my breath with the air it swallows
my hunger with my mouth
because I walk barefoot in my house
because I have nursed my son at my breast
because he is a strong American boy
because I have seen his eyes redden when he is asked who he is
because he answers I don’t know
because to have a son is to have a country
because my son will bury me here
because countries are in our blood and we bleed them
because it is late and too late to change my mind
because it is time.
MOYERS: And now a look at stories coming up on NPR. radio this weekend.
NPR: Sunday on weekend edition, the story of a blind street musician in detroit who was overheard by a young rock band.
They recruited him on the spot and Robert Bradley’s Black Water Surprise was born.
Also, a puzzle, a discussion of the pros and cons of deficit spending and the latest news.
You can find your local public radio station on our web site, npr.org.
Hope you can join us.
STATE OF THE UNION TAPE: Mr. Speaker, the President of the United States.
(\cheers and applause\)
HARRY SHEARER: Ladies and gentlemen unlike most people commenting on the state of the union address I’ve actually stood in the well of the house where the speech was given.
Of course, the house was totally empty at the time, but give or take seven dozen standing ovations, the effect was pretty much the same.
So the modern State of the Union experience begins with the competition to set expectations: supporters set them low, to be easily exceeded, opponents set them high, to make disappointment inevitable. The one thing that both sides seem to have in common: both seem to be billing someone by the word.
Then the media spend days poring over polls, to tell us normal Americans what normal Americans want the President to tell us. The elite media, NPR and George Stephanopoulos, go one step further. They convene focus groups to replicate the info nuggets the President is getting fed by his advisors. People in Harrisburg are worried about jobs? This stuff is worth the money.
After hours of pre-game mood-setting, we are treated to the event itself. Now, I’ve never sat on one of the chamber’s chairs, but they must be grotesquely uncomfortable, given the fact that the audience has that compulsion to stand up every minute or so. And, since Reagan era, we’re treated to the guest stars. The President introduces them the way Ed Sullivan used to recognize heavyweight champs in the audience. These people are flown in so the President can bask in their reflected goodness, and, of course, to jack up the ovation count.
Finally, more polls and focus groups to tell us normal Americans what normal Americans think of the speech.
Does it matter? Do you remember any of these speeches? This year’s edition has one claim to memorability. One of the guest stars was James Hoffa, Jr. That’s right, in the presence of the country’s most controversial trade unionist, The President reported on the State of the Union just days after ruling that thousands of members of the Justice Department can’t join a union. Who says irony is dead?
MOYERS: Certainly not you, Harry, but thanks for that personal report on the State of the Union.
That’s it for NOW. Next week’s a new week. See you then. I’m Bill Moyers.
This transcript was entered on March 20, 2015.