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Standing Up For Democracy: How Activists Are Fighting Injustice in America Today

Bill Moyers talks with activists about an initiative to open Americans' eyes about income inequality.
 
 
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The following is a transcript and video from the March 29, 2012 episode of Moyers & Company.

BILL MOYERS: Welcome. Although we’ve only been back on the air for a couple of months, in your letters, e-mails and webpage comments a single theme emerges time and again – thank you for the reporting, for the interviews and for your commentary, you tell us, but the problems seem so insurmountable, the forces arrayed against us so large, what can I do, as one person, to make a difference? How can I help bring change to America, how can I get involved in the issues facing our country?

Well, on this edition of Moyers & Company, we’re going to tell you about some of the ways people are taking action and we’ll introduce you to some young activists – all of whom are involved with an enormous citizen effort that’s just a few days away. It's a nationwide initiative called the 99% Spring, and it takes place the week of April 9th. Its organizers aim to teach 100,000 Americans about income inequality and then send them out to spread the word from door to door and even at the shareholder meetings of our too big to fail banks – the banks we bailed out with our billions of tax dollars when the economy went up in smoke and flames four years ago.

The inspiration for the 99% Spring comes from the Occupy movement and mobilizations like this one, in the fall of 2009, when citizens from all over the country came to Chicago to confront the American Bankers Association. Organizer George Goehl brought together a coalition of grassroots organizations big and small.

GEORGE GOEHL: The one thing we have. Our own political currency is people. And people are ready to hit the streets. Today is the beginning of a much larger set of mobilizations. They’re going to take place all across the country. We’re just getting started.

BILL MOYERS: That was George Goehl then and here he is now. One of the brains behind the 99% Spring. George Goehl been a community organizer, a strategist and trainer for 20 years. He’s executive director of National People’s Action. That's a network of grassroots organizations in 14 states using direct action to battle against economic and racial injustice. Welcome, George. GEORGE GOEHL: Hey, thanks for having me.

BILL MOYERS: It's been three years since I saw you last. And Congress has enacted the Dodd-Frank Bill with some oversight of Wall Street. And the president has been sounding like a populist from time to time. Are you satisfied with the progress?

GEORGE GOEHL: We're not. I mean, I would say that it's been hard for the president to tap into that populist bone in his body. I think some of us question whether it's there. It often feels like he's kind of trying to eat his worst, or least favorite vegetable. Putting some broccoli down his throat. And he can do it for a couple days. But then he kind of moves back towards the middle.

But he's got a chance to prove himself. And I think what we need is a leader that's willing to put direct pressure on the big banks to come to the table. There's a number of things that they need to do. But some of them are very clear. They can write down principle on mortgages to fair market value. The new settlement that they just signed with the attorneys general and the big banks, it actually is around $25 billion.

 
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