Bill Moyers: The Plutocracy Will Go to Extremes to Keep the 1% in Control
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CHRYSTIA FREELAND: You know, I think because it is still a taboo in American political life and in American cultural life. One of the economists I talk to he works for the World Bank. And he said to me, you know, and he's a specialist in income inequality.
And he said, "When you go to think tanks you say you'd like to do a study about poverty, they say, 'That's fine. That's great. We're happy to fund it,' because writing about poverty makes everybody feel good and feel that they're being charitable and beneficent. But if you say, 'Actually, I want to study income inequality,' and even most dangerously, 'I want to study what's happening at the very top of the distribution," what Branko Milanović said to me is the think tanks immediately pull away because they say, "Our donors won't like it."
And that actually challenges the whole economic setup of the United States and of western capitalism. It’s very, very threatening. And I think that that’s why you've had the billionaire class. You know, the minute Barack Obama, I would actually say rather gently suggested that the millionaires and the billionaires should pay a little bit more, you had immediate cries of class warfare from the plutocrats. And very emotional. You know, there was an activist investor who sent an e-mail to his friends. The subject line is, "battered wives." And in the e-mail he compares himself and his fellow multi-millionaires to battered wives who are being beaten by the president. He actually uses those words.
MATT TAIBBI: And I thought it was really interesting in your book how you pointed out that Bill Clinton, himself, responded to Obama's criticism by saying, "You know, I would have done it a little bit differently. I think, you know, you can't attack these people for their success." And I think that's very relevant because if you go back in time, it wasn't always this way.
But I think the shift really began with Clinton and the New Democrats. I think after, you know, Walter Mondale lost in 1984, the Democrats decided, "You know, we're never going to lose the funding battle again." And they began this sort of imperceptible shift, where they continued to campaign on social issues the same way they had before.
They retained their liberalism in that sense. But economically, they began to side more and more with Wall Street and more and more with the very rich. And they've, I think we've now reached the point where neither party really represents the very poor in the way that the Democrats maybe used to. And so, that there's, that's why, you know, you don't see it in the debates, because neither party is really an advocate for that kind of left behind class anymore.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: It is the people at the bottom, as Matt says. But it's also the people in the middle.
MATT TAIBBI: Right.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: You know, the middle class is being--
MATT TAIBBI: Decimated, yeah.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: --hammered. Those jobs are hollowed out. And where are the people pulling back and saying, "Okay, technology revolution, we love it." Globalization, I love that too. And I think it's great people are being raised up in India and China and now Africa. But let's think about how our society and our politics need to change to accommodate this. And no one is doing that. And meanwhile, the guys at the top, who are making, who are doing so, so well actually are saying, "We need to slant the political system even more in our own favor."