1. Trevor Potter on Fighting Big Money in the 2012 Election: The former FEC chairman joins Bill to discuss how American elections are bought and sold, who covers the cost, and how the rest of us pay the price (46:34).
Elections for SaleSeptember 21, 2012
One of the reasons Moyers & Company frequently returns to the theme of money and politics is because it’s absolutely necessary to do so. Nothing corrupts our political system more than the ability of the rich and influential to spend limitless amounts of money — often in secret — with the intention of creating preferred political outcomes. And far from being a regulator of campaign finances, our political funding laws — aided by a corporate-friendly Supreme Court and self-interested politicians — only facilitate the process of empowering the few while subjugating the many.
Few understand how money moves in and out of our political system better than campaign finance reform advocate Trevor Potter. A former chairman of the Federal Election Commission and founding president of the Campaign Legal Center, Potter was Stephen Colbert’s chief advisor when Colbert formed his own super PAC and 501 (c)(4) in a clever effort to expose the potential for chicanery behind each.
Bill and Potter discuss how American elections are bought and sold, who covers the cost, and how the rest of us pay the price.
“I can assure you that if someone is spending millions of dollars to elect the candidate, the candidate knows where that money is coming from. There’s nothing illegal about telling them, but the voters aren’t going to know that,” Potter tells Bill. “We’re creating opportunities for corruption and candidates being beholden to specific private interests because of funding, yet there’s no disclosure to the rest of us.”
Also on the show, a Bill Moyers essay on how the Citizens United decision has candidates campaigning for cash more than votes, and how that money is pouring into TV ads and high paid political consultants.TOPICS: Money & Politics
Because of partisan gridlock in Washington, the Supreme Court has become the most powerful and outspoken branch of government – decisions they make shape our democracy’s fate for generations to come. Now, one has only to look at Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, and the Affordable Care Act rulings to understand why some call it a “one-percent Court” — dedicated by majority rule to preserving the power and influence of a minority of wealthy special interests (56:46):
The One-Percent CourtSeptember 14, 2012
Because of partisan gridlock in Washington, the Supreme Court has become the most powerful and outspoken branch of government – decisions they make shape our democracy’s fate for generations to come. Now, one has only to look at Bush v. Gore, Citizens United, and the Affordable Care Act rulings to understand why some call it a “one-percent Court” — dedicated by majority rule to preserving the power and influence of a minority of wealthy special interests.
In this episode, The Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel and Jamie Raskin, constitutional law professor and Maryland state senator, join Bill to discuss how the uncontested power of the Supreme Court is changing our elections, our country, and our lives. The two joined forces for a special upcoming issue of The Nation entitled “The One Percent Court.”
“We wanted to bring attention to how this court has empowered the 1% at the expense of the 99%,” says vanden Heuvel. “How it is now working for big business, for corporate power against the interests of ordinary citizens in this country.”
Also on the program, Bill talks with Craig Unger, author of Boss Rove: Inside Karl Rove’s Secret Kingdom of Power, about Rove’s behind-the-scenes maneuvering to once again affect the outcome of a presidential election.
“Most people thought he was a creature of the Bush family,” Unger tells Bill. “I think he’s a force more powerful than that.”
Challenging Power, Changing PoliticsSeptember 7, 2012
The conventions are over — now it’s time for some thinking outside the box. So Bill welcomes to his studio Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who’s been an independent in Congress for 21 years — longer than anyone in American history. Sanders talks about jobs, the state of our economy, health care, and the unprecedented impact of big money on the major political parties.
“What you are looking at is a nation with a grotesquely unequal distribution of wealth and income, tremendous economic power on Wall Street, and now added to all of that is big money interests, the billionaires and corporations now buying elections,” Sanders tells Bill. “I fear very much that if we don’t turn this around, we’re heading toward an oligarchic form of society.”
Also on the show, Bill talks to Green Party presidential and vice presidential candidates Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala, who share what they’ve learned about American politics. Stein graduated from Harvard Medical School to become an internist specializing in environmental health. She was a Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate in 2002, co-founded the Massachusetts Coalition for Healthy Communities in 2003, and represented the Green-Rainbow Party in state races in 2004 and 2006.
Honkala is an anti-poverty activist and community organizer who co-founded the Kensington Welfare Rights Union and the Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign. A formerly homeless single mother, Honkala became the first woman ever to run for Sheriff of Philadelphia in 2011.
The Resurrection of Ralph ReedAugust 31, 2012
While Romney, Ryan, Rubio, and Eastwood got the lion’s share of attention during the Republican Convention this week, three one-time college Republicans who are now the party’s real power-brokers — Karl Rove, Ralph Reed, and Grover Norquist — are busy doing what they do best: leveraging their political, religious, and financial resources to back pro-corporate, anti-government objectives at the core of the conservative agenda.
The true surprise at the Tampa convention was Ralph Reed’s resurrection. When the former head of the Christian Coalition was discovered to have raked in millions of dollars from the super lobbyist — and eventually convicted felon — Jack Abramoff, Reed wound up in political purgatory. But outraged by the election of Barack Obama, and responding to what he describes as God’s call (via Sean Hannity), Reed returned to start the Faith and Freedom Coalition with the aim of toppling Barack Obama from the White House. To succeed, Reed needs to win the allegiance of many of the trusting Christian followers he had duped and double-crossed while working with Abramoff.
This week, Moyers & Company tracks Reed’s rise, fall, and return: does it signal a new revolution, or an old racket?
Later on the show, Bill also talks with Mike Lofgren, a long-time Republican who talks about the modern corruption and dysfunction of both Republican and Democratic parties. Lofgren’s new book is The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted.
TAGS: christian coalition, grover norquist, jack abramoff, karl rove, money and politics, ralph reed, religious politics, republican convention, sean hannity, widget
TAGS: Christianity, religion, religious politics, republicans, The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy
Nuns, Faith and PoliticsAugust 24, 2012
Weeks before Republican Paul Ryan was selected to run for vice president, Sister Simone Campbell — who heads NETWORK, a Catholic policy and lobbying group — hit the road to protest the so-called “Ryan budget” recently passed by the House of Representatives. She and some of her sister nuns rolled across the heartland on a bus trip designed to arouse public concern over what the Ryan plan would mean for social services in America, especially its slashing of programs for the poor. Sister Simone says his budget is inconsistent with Catholic social teaching. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops agrees.
But other Catholics say Sister Simone and the nuns have crossed a line. Robert Royal, editor in chief of The Catholic Thing and founder of the Faith & Reason Institute, believes that issues of economic inequality are being oversimplified. Royal says the focus should be on creating a more dynamic economy for all.
In this episode, watch our field report from producers who rode along on the ‘Nuns on the Bus’ tour, then join a passionate, candid discussion about faith and economics with Sister Simone and Royal.
“A more dynamic economy for all” means 281% after-tax income growth for the top 1% and 16% for the bottom fifth:
Don’t forget that’s an “efficient” outcome.
1. Keesha Gaskins and Michael Waldman on Suppressing Votes By Law: Bill talks to Keesha Gaskins and Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice about new election laws that keep the young, elderly, minorities and the poor from voting (19:45).
3. Bill Moyers Essay: Everyone Should Be Entitled to Medicare: Bill recalls his days with Lyndon Johnson as they prepared to sell Medicare to Congress, and makes the case for why everyone should be entitled to it today (7:48).
Suppressing the VoteAugust 3, 2012
The fight against voter fraud is a solution in search of a problem — these days, documented instances of voter fraud are virtually non-existent. Nonetheless, since the 2010 mid-term elections, 10 states have passed laws requiring government-issued photo IDs to vote — identification that for many is too expensive or otherwise difficult to obtain.
Bill talks to Keesha Gaskins and Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice about new voter ID and other election laws that keep the young, elderly, minorities and the poor from exercising one of the most fundamental American rights.
“When these votes come under attack by this level of partisan gamesmanship, it’s completely inappropriate and antithetical to our history,” Gaskins tells Bill. “This is a very real political issue, but beyond that, this is a real issue of real Americans being able to access and be self-determinative in how we’re governed.”
Also on the program, Bill talks with independent filmmaker Anthony Baxter, director of You’ve Been Trumped, a new documentary about the perils of rampant capitalism and gluttonous conspicuous consumption, epitomized by Donald Trump’s aggressive efforts to build “the greatest golf course in the world” across ancient sand dunes in Scotland. A veteran journalist, Baxter says what Trump and the Scottish government are hailing as an economic boon is actually a disaster to the environment and a callous disruption of people’s lives by a ruthless one-percenter run amok.
“It seems to me there’s one rule for the super-rich and one rule for everybody else,” Baxter says. “And the 99 percent of people in the world are tired and fed up of having money and power riding roughshod over their lives and our planet… Our planet, I don’t think, can afford these kinds of decisions.”
To end the broadcast, Bill shares his thoughts on the 47th anniversary of Medicare — the apex of Lyndon Johnson’s ambitious vision for America. Bill was a key Johnson aide as they developed Medicare and pressed Congress to pass it. How to save Medicare today? The answer, says Bill, is obvious: make it available to every American.
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Banking on GreedJuly 13, 2012
Just when you think the reputation of banks couldn’t get any worse, comes word that we’ve seen nothing yet. As many as 20 banking institutions, including Barclays Bank, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, UBS and HSBC, are reportedly under investigation for illegal and unethical practices toward protecting their profits at all costs and letting others pay for their mistakes. In this episode, financial expert Sheila Bair talks with Bill about the lawlessness of our banking system and the prognosis for meaningful reform. Bair was appointed in 2006 by President George W. Bush to chair the FDIC. During the 2008 meltdown, she argued that in some cases banks were NOT too big to fail — that instead of bailouts, they should be sold off to healthier competitors. Now a senior adviser to the Pew Charitable Trusts, Bair has organized a private group of financial experts including former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, former Senators Bill Bradley and Alan Simpson, and John Reed, once the chairman of Citicorp, to explore ways to prevent the banking industry from scuttling reforms created by the Dodd-Frank Act.
Also on the show, Bill talks to scientist and philosopher Vandana Shiva, who’s become a rock star in the global battle over genetically modified seeds. These seeds — considered “intellectual property” by the big companies who own the patents — are globally marketed to monopolize food production and profits. Opponents challenge the safety of genetically modified seeds, claiming they also harm the environment, are more costly, and leave local farmers deep in debt as well as dependent on suppliers. Shiva, who founded a movement in India to promote native seeds, links genetic tinkering to problems in our ecology, economy, and humanity, and sees this as the latest battleground in the war on Planet Earth.
Footage from Bitter Seeds courtesy of Teddy Bear Films
Is Labor A Lost Cause?July 6, 2012
Bill opens this week’s show by explaining how last week’s Supreme Court decision not to reconsider Citizens United exposes the hoax that Citizens United was ever about “free” speech. In reality, Bill says in a broadcast essay, it’s about carpet bombing elections “with all the tonnage your rich paymasters want to buy.”
Also lost in the Supreme media chatter last week: a disturbing ruling in Knox vs. SEIU Local 1000 that restricts labor unions from directing collected dues toward political causes. There’s no similar limit on corporations, naturally – yet another indication that the power and status of modern unions is waning, especially when compared to the unbridled influence of Corporate America. With a sharp decline in union membership, a legion of new enemies, and a series of legal and legislative setbacks, can unions rebound and once again act strongly in the interest of ordinary workers?
On this week’s Moyers & Company, Bill talks to two people who can best answer the question: Stephen Lerner and Bill Fletcher, Jr. The architect of the SEIU’s Justice for Janitors movement, Lerner directed SEIU’s private equity project, which worked to expose a Wall Street feeding frenzy that left the working class in a state of catastrophe. Fletcher took his Harvard degree to the Massachusetts shipyards, and worked as a welder before becoming a labor activist. He served as Assistant to the President of the AFL-CIO, and is author of the upcoming book “They’re Bankrupting Us!”: And 20 Other Myths about Unions.
Later in the show, Bill talks with and invites readings by poet Philip Appleman, whose creativity spans a long life filled with verse, fiction, philosophy, religion… and Darwinism. Appleman’s latest collection is Perfidious Proverbs.
Confronting the Contradictions of America’s PastJune 29, 2012
Bill opens this weekend’s Moyers & Company with a reminder that behind this Fourth of July holiday are human beings, like Thomas Jefferson, who were as flawed and conflicted as they were inspired, who espoused great humanistic ideals while behaving with reprehensible racial discrimination. That conflict – between what we know and how we live – is still a struggle in contemporary politics and society.
No stranger to the contradictions of history and their racial touchpoints is Bill’s studio guest Khalil Gibran Muhammad, head of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and author of The Condemnation of Blackness. Muhammad and Moyers discuss the importance of confronting the contradictions of America’s past to better understand present issues of race and equality.
1. Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith on the Follies of Big Banks and Government: Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith join Bill to discuss how the folly and corruption of both banks and government leaves deep wounds in our democracy (26:58).
2. Peter Eldelman on Fighting Poverty: Bill talks with the author and advocate about continuing efforts to fight poverty, and how to keep the needs of the poor on the American political agenda (25:48).
How Big Banks Victimize Our DemocracyJune 22, 2012
JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon’s appearances in the last two weeks before Congressional committees — many members of which received campaign contributions from the megabank — beg the question: For how long and how many ways are average Americans going to pay the price for big bank hubris, with our own government acting as accomplice?
On this week’s Moyers & Company, Rolling Stone editor Matt Taibbi and Yves Smith, creator of the finance and economics blog Naked Capitalism, join Bill to discuss the folly and corruption of both banks and government, and how that tag-team leaves deep wounds in our democracy. Taibbi’s latest piece is “The Scam Wall Street Learned from the Mafia.” Smith is the author of ECONned: How Unenlightened Self Interest Undermined Democracy and Corrupted Capitalism.
Meanwhile, for anyone who wants to understand why, in one of the richest nations in the world, so many poor people are teetering on the edge, author and advocate Peter Edelman talks about continuing efforts to fight poverty, and what it will take to keep the needs of poor people on the American political agenda. A former aide to Robert F. Kennedy and faculty director of Georgetown University’s Center on Poverty, Inequality, and Public Policy, Edelman’s new book is So Rich, So Poor: Why It’s So Hard to End Poverty in America.
May 25, 2012
After 9/11, the U.S. government turned to torture — in defiance of domestic and international laws — to extract information about and from terrorists and others who might follow after them. Were it not for defense attorneys and the work of human rights organizations, these prisoners would be ignored. But that’s changing.
The American Civil Liberties Union and the international literary and human rights group PEN have teamed up to comb through 150,000 declassified documents — as well as large collections of articles and transcripts — to produce The Torture Report: What the Documents Say About America’s Post-9/11 Torture Program, written by PEN’s Larry Siems. PEN and the ACLU have also staged readings of excerpts from the documents and first-person testimony at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah and Lincoln Center here in New York.
Those readings have been videotaped and are being made into a documentary by movie director Doug Liman called Reckoning with Torture. Liman is now asking people across the country to videotape their own readings of declassified memos and testimonies for the project.
On this weekend’s Moyers & Company, Siems, director of the Freedom to Write and International Programs at PEN American Center, and Liman, whose credits include The Bourne Identity, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, and Fair Game, join Bill Moyers to talk about what we should be learning from and doing about U.S. torture tactics.
“We made mistakes. We made grave, serious mistakes of judgment,” Siems tells Moyers, “And we would be stronger as a nation, if we stood up and said, ‘We did these things. We’re sorry. We’re gonna do better.’”
May 18, 2012
Songs of social protest — music and the quest for justice — have long been intertwined, and the troubadours of troubling times — Guthrie, Seeger, Baez, Dylan, and Springsteen among them — have become famous for their dedication to both. Now we can add a name to the ranks of those who lift their voices for social and economic justice: Tom Morello.
Morello is the Harvard-educated guitarist who dabbled in politics, then chose rock music to make a difference. He played guitar for the popular band he co-founded — Rage Against the Machine — and then for Audioslave. Rolling Stone chose his album “World Wide Rebel Songs” as one of the best of 2011, and named him one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time.
As likely to be spotted at a grass-roots rally as he would at a concert hall, Morello was in Madison, Wisconsin last year, braving bitter winter weather to sing on the steps of the state capitol in support of public service workers. Morello defended their collective bargaining rights against Republican Governor Scott Walker.
He was in New York City at the May Day demonstrations, an honorary commander of a battalion of musicians they called the “Occupy Guitarmy.” That same night, Harry Belafonte presented Morello with the Officers’ Award from the Sidney Hillman Foundation, honoring his “advocacy for and support of working people across the world.”
Tom Morello shares his music, his message, and mission with Bill Moyers, who’s all ears.
Extended Preview: Tom Morello on Writing Songs for Social Justice (1:40)