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Bill Moyers: Our Politicians Are Money Launderers Not Too Different from Tony Soprano

Americans have learned the hard way that when rich organizations and wealthy individuals shower Washington with millions in campaign contributions, they get what they want.

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No wonder the U.S. Chamber of Commerce feels right as home with the landmark designation of its headquarters. 1615 H Street now masterminds the laundering of multi-millions of dollars raised from captains of industry and private wealth to finance – secretly – the political mercenaries who fight the class war in their behalf.

Even as the Chamber was doubling its membership and tripling its budget in response to Lewis Powell’s manifesto, the coalition got another powerful jolt of adrenalin from the wealthy right-winger who had served as Nixon’s secretary of the treasury, William Simon. His polemic entitled A Time for Truth argued that “funds generated by business” must “rush by multimillions” into conservative causes to uproot the institutions and “the heretical strategy” [his term] of the New Deal. He called on “men of action in the capitalist world” to mount “a veritable crusade” against progressive America. Business Week magazine somberly explained that “…it will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have move.”

I’m not making this up.

And so it came to pass; came to pass despite your heroic efforts and those of other kindred citizens; came to pass because those “men of action in the capitalist world” were not content with their wealth just to buy more homes, more cars, more planes, more vacations and more gizmos than anyone else. They were determined to buy more democracy than anyone else. And they succeeded beyond their own expectations. After their 40-year “veritable crusade” against our institutions, laws and regulations – against the ideas, norms and beliefs that helped to create America’s iconic middle class – the Gilded Age is back with a vengeance.

You know these things, of course, because you’ve been up against that “veritable crusade” all these years. But if you want to see the story pulled together in one compelling narrative, read this – perhaps the best book on politics of the last two years: Winner Take All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class. Two accomplished political scientists wrote it: Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson – the Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson of political science, who wanted to know how America had turned into a society starkly divided into winners and losers.

Mystified by what happened to the notion of “shared prosperity” that marked the years after World War II;

puzzled that over the last generation more and more wealth has gone to the rich and superrich, while middle-class and working people are left barely hanging on;

vexed that hedge-fund managers pulling down billions can pay a lower tax rate than their pedicurists, manicurists, cleaning ladies and chauffeurs;

curious as to why politicians keep slashing taxes on the very rich even as they grow richer, and how corporations keep being handed huge tax breaks and subsidies even as they fire hundreds of thousands of workers;

troubled that the heart of the American Dream – upward mobility – seems to have stopped beating;

astounded that the United States now leads in the competition for the gold medal for inequality;

and dumbfounded that all this could happen in a democracy whose politicians are supposed to serve the greatest good for the greatest number, and must regularly face the judgment of citizens at the polls if they haven’t done so;

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson wanted to find out “how our economy stopped working to provide prosperity and security for the broad middle class.” They wanted to know: “Who dunnit?”

 
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