Moyers: Rampant Capitalism Has Created a Social Disaster -- How Do We Right the Ship?
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Economist Richard Wolff joins Bill to shine light on the disaster left behind in capitalism’s wake, and to discuss the fight for economic justice, including a fair minimum wage. A Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, and currently Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School, Wolff has written many books on the effects of rampant capitalism, including Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It.
BILL MOYERS: Welcome. There’s hardly a sentient grown-up in this country who isn’t aware that our economy is no longer working for vast numbers of everyday people. The rich and powerful have more wealth and power than ever; everyone else keeps losing ground. Between 2009 and 2011 alone, income fell for the 99 percent, while it rose eleven percent for the top One Percent. Since the worst of the financial crisis, that top One Percent has captured the increases in income while the rest of the country has floundered. Stunning, isn’t it? The behavior of many of those One Percenters brought on the financial crisis in the first place. We turned around and rescued them, and now their wealth is skyrocketing once again. At the bottom, working people are practically flat on their back. President Obama has finally recognized they need help. In his State of the Union, he proposed an increase in the minimum wage:
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Tonight, let’s declare that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, no one who works full-time should have to live in poverty, and raise the federal minimum wage to nine dollars an hour.
BILL MOYERS: But as the economist Dean Baker points out this week, “If the minimum wage had risen in step with productivity growth it would be over $16.50 an hour today.” We talk a lot about what’s happening to the middle class, but the American Dream’s really become a nightmare for the poor. Just about everyone has an opinion about the trouble we’re in – the blame game is at fever pitch in Washington, where obstinate Republicans and hapless Democrats once again play kick-the-can with the problems we face. You wish they would just stop and listen to Richard Wolff.
An attentive and systematic observer of capitalism and democracy, he taught economics for 25 years at the University of Massachusetts and has published books such as “Democracy at Work,” “Occupy the Economy,” and “Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do about It.” He’s now visiting professor at The New School University here in New York City where he’s teaching a special course on the financial crash. Welcome, Richard Wolff.
RICHARD WOLFF: Thank you, Bill.
BILL MOYERS: Last night, I watched for the second time the popular lecture that is on this DVD, “Capitalism Hits the Fan.” Tell us why you say capitalism has hit the fan?
RICHARD WOLFF: Well, the classic defense of capitalism as a system from much of its history has been, okay, it has this or that flaw. But it quote, unquote, "delivers the goods.'"
BILL MOYERS: Yeah, for most everybody.
RICHARD WOLFF: Right.
BILL MOYERS: That was the argument.
RICHARD WOLFF: And so you may not get the most, but it'll trickle down to you, all the different ways—
BILL MOYERS: The yachts will rise.
RICHARD WOLFF: That's right. The ocean will lift all the boats. The reality is that for at least 30 years now, that isn't true. For the majority of people, capitalism is not delivering the goods. It is delivering, arguably, the bads. And so we have this disparity getting wider and wider between those for whom capitalism continues to deliver the goods by all means, but a growing majority in this society which isn't getting the benefit, is in fact, facing harder and harder times. And that's what provokes some of us to begin to say, "It's a systemic problem."