Bill Moyers: The Plutocracy Will Go to Extremes to Keep the 1% in Control
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BILL MOYERS: And it is captured—
MATT TAIBBI: But now we're completely captured, with the banking example, now we have these banks that are literally too big to fail in America because we didn't do the same thing.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: But government can act. I mean, I think it's important not to have a counsel of despair. That you can have a sophisticated, industrialized western economy. People can live, you know, civilized lives. They can have bankers. Their bankers even, maybe they're not going to earn $25 million. But they can earn $5 million or $6 million.
They can be perfectly affluent. And government can actually stand up to its banks and stand up to other sectors of industry and say, "You know what? I'm sure that would be great for you guys. My judgment is it's wrong for the country. And you're not going to do it."
BILL MOYERS: They resent any criticism, despite all the advantages and entitlements they have. They also exhibit disdain, as Mitt Romney made clear in that infamous or famous 47 percent video. You know, when he talked about other people being dependent on government.
MATT TAIBBI: I've heard that attitude more than once, and not just from Mitt Romney. I think it's, again, it's consistent with this mindset that there is an intellectual atmosphere that these people I think have to work within in order to justify a lot of what they do, because you have to be completely disconnected from the real world in order to do things like sell fraudulent mortgages to a state pension fund. If you're actually thinking about that, you know, you're taking somebody's life savings away when you do that. But you can't think about that.
BILL MOYERS: Matt, you quoted the billionaire Charlie Munger of Berkshire Hathaway, who said that anyone who wants to complain about the Wall Street bailout should realize they were, "absolutely required to save your civilization." What did he mean by that?
MATT TAIBBI: Well, again, this group of people believe that all of civilization depends on their health and their wellbeing. So when they were threatened in 2008, when they were all about to collapse, it made absolute sense to them that the government should immediately intervene and give them as much money as they needed, to not only to get back on their feet, but to restore their lifestyles to the level that they had been accustomed to.
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: So I'm going to, here, step in as a voice in favor of the bailout. I think that Munger was right. I do actually believe--
BILL MOYERS: Saving civilization?
CHRYSTIA FREELAND: Yeah, I think it was. I think that the bailouts were absolutely essential. I think that, had there not been a bailout, which, by the way, let's remember, voices on the right as well as the left were objecting to the bailout at the time. I think had there not been a bailout, you would've had a much more severe crisis. You would've had a full financial collapse and a much, much deeper economic recession. Now, I think where you can and should criticize is first of all, why was the crisis allowed to happen in the first place and the regulatory failure beforehand. I think second of all, you know, where were the strings attached? And actually Charlie Munger's great business partner, Warren Buffett, drove a much harder bargain with Goldman Sachs than the U.S. Treasury did.
You know, 2008 is not so long ago. And already, the anti-regulation chorus is so strong. You know, I think the re-regulation was not done well at all.