Bill Moyers: The Plutocracy Will Go to Extremes to Keep the 1% in Control
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The One Percent is not only increasing their share of wealth — they’re using it to spread millions among political candidates who serve their interests. Example: Goldman Sachs, which gave more money than any other major American corporation to Barack Obama in 2008, is switching alliances this year; their employees have given $900,000 both to Mitt Romney’s campaign and to the pro-Romney super PAC Restore Our Future. Why?
Because, says the Wall Street Journal, the Goldman Sachs gang felt betrayed by President Obama’s modest attempts at financial reform. To discuss how the super-rich have willfully confused their self-interest with America’s interest, Bill is joined by Rolling Stone magazine’s Matt Taibbi, who regularly shines his spotlight on scandals involving big business and government, and journalist Chrystia Freeland, author of the new book Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else.
Full transcript of the interview below the video:
BILL MOYERS: The new Gilded Age is roaring down on us, an uncaged tiger on a rampage. Walk out to the street in front of our office and turn right and you can see the symbol of it: a fancy new skyscraper going up two blocks away. When finished, this high rise among high rises will tower a thousand feet, the tallest residential building in the city.
The New York Times has dubbed it "the global billionaires club," and for good reason. At least of two of the apartments are under contract for more than $90 million each. Others, more modest, range in price from $45 million to more than 50 million.
Simultaneously, the powers-that-be have just awarded Donald Trump -- yes, that Donald Trump -- the right to run a golf course in the Bronx which taxpayers are spending at least $97 million to build. What “amounts to a public subsidy,” says the indignant city comptroller, "for a luxury golf course." Good grief. A handout to the plutocrat's plutocrat.
This, in a city where economic inequality rivals that of a third-world country. Of America's 25 largest cities, New York is now the most unequal. The median income for the bottom 20% last year was less than $9,000, while the top one percent of New Yorkers has an average annual income of $2.2 million.
Across America, this divide between the superrich and everyone else has become a yawning chasm and studies indicate it may stifle jobs and growth for years to come. At no time in modern history has the top one hundredth of one percent owned more of our wealth or paid so low a tax rate. But in neither of the two presidential debates so far has the vastness of this astounding inequality gap been discussed. Not by Mitt Romney, who is the embodiment of the predatory world of financial capitalism. And not even by Barack Obama, whose party once fought for working men and women against the economic royalists.
So just in time, if not too late, comes this definitive examination of inequality: Plutocrats: The Rise of the New Global Super-Rich and the Fall of Everyone Else. Its author is Chrystia Freeland, whose journalism is steeped in years of covering robber barons from Russia to Mexico and India. Once deputy editor of The Globe and Mail in Canada and a correspondent for The Financial Times and The Economist, she is now the editor of Thomson Reuters Digital.
We're joined by the perceptive and merciless Matt Taibbi, who has made the magazine Rolling Stone a go-to source for understanding the financial scandals that roil America. Who can forget his 2009 article on "The Great American Bubble Machine," which described investment bank Goldman Sachs as quote, "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money”? ... Income inequality has soared to the highest level since the Great Depression, with the top one percent taking 93 percent of the income earned in the first year after the recovery, the first full year after the recovery. Why are the two candidates not talking about inequality growing at breakneck speed?