Bill Moyers: The Plutocracy Will Go to Extremes to Keep the 1% in Control
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MATT TAIBBI: Right. Where was that outrage when the $5 trillion or $6 trillion in bailouts was coming their way?
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Right. So I really worry about that. And then the other thing that I worry about is you do start actually stifling economic growth. So, you know, if you want my dystopia scenario for the United States, it is that America's moving into a more Latin American structure of the economy.
BILL MOYERS: People at the top, rich. And a lot of people—
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: A few incredibly rich, you know, having just great lives. And then people at the bottom really struggling.
MATT TAIBBI: We both lived that. We saw that in Russia and it happened in the mid-'90s. And—
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, you both cut your teeth in journalism covering Russia. What do you take away from that that is relevant to what's happening in this country?
MATT TAIBBI: You know, I, that experience completely shaped the way I look at the present situation in the, in America. In the mid-'90s, suddenly when Russia became a "capitalist society" you suddenly has this instant division of the entire society into this very, very tiny group of people at the top who had more money than anybody in the world. And then there was everybody else who had nothing. And—
BILL MOYERS: And they got it through privatization, the government sold off the resources of--
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: "Sold" in quotation marks--
BILL MOYERS: Yeah. So--
MATT TAIBBI: But that was, that's the key part that I think people don't understand, is that what happened in Russian was really a merger of state and private power that empowered this one tiny little class. There was this moment in Russia's history called loans-for-shares. The loans-for-shares privatizations, where a few people, a lot of them were ex-KGB types, were essentially handed the jewels of Russian industry by the people in the Yeltsin government. There were companies that were put in charge of their own auctions. So they--
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: They were all in charge of their own auctions.
MATT TAIBBI: They were all in charge of their own auctions. So they, you would have an auction for an oil company and a bank would be put in charge of that auction. And the bank magically, you know, would win the auction for the oil company, which was worth, you know, billions or even hundreds of billions of dollars. And that's how they instantly created this super wealthy class of people. And everybody else had nothing. This one story, for me this image that I'll never forget. I went to a coal mine up in the Russian arctic north where workers hadn't been paid their salaries for nine, ten months at a time. And when I went to the mine, the mine owners, the first thing they wanted to do was to take me to their bright shiny new lounge that they had built for themselves and show off their brand new slate pool table that they had built with the money that they weren't paying to their workers.
And that, to me, perfectly expressed the divide in modern Russian society. You had these people who were living off nothing on the one hand. And then you had these super wealthy people who had been enabled who had just kept the money for themselves. And that's I think, you know, it's a caricature of what we're experiencing here in America. But I think that's where the world is drifting toward now.