NOW with Bill Moyers

Norquist Gets Candid

This is a transcript of an interview broadcast on PBS on Nov. 5.

Bill Moyers: The president [uses] the political muscle to back his claim to a mandate – and the enforcers to carry it out. One of them is with me now, Grover Norquist, one of the most prominent and powerful figures in the conservative movement.

From leading college Republicans – he himself has two degrees from Harvard – to running Americans for Tax Reform, which dubbed Senate minority leader Tom Daschle an "enemy of the taxpayer" and helped to defeat him, Grover Norquist is a prime mover on the right. In the words of Newt Gingrich, "the most creative and most effective conservative activist" in the country.

He's also one tough hombre. This week he told Democrats to get with the program, accept the fact that they are powerless. The Washington Post quotes him saying after the election: "Once the minority of House and Senate are comfortable in their minority status, they will have no problem socializing with the Republicans. Any farmer will tell you that certain animals run around and are unpleasant, but when they're fixed then they are happy and sedate. They are contented and cheerful. They don't go around peeing on the furniture and such."

Grover Norquist assures us he was speaking tongue-in-cheek, but Democrats and liberals are now accustomed to have his thumb in their eye.

Welcome back to NOW.

Grover Norquist: Delighted to be with you.

Moyers: Did you really say that?

Norquist: Yes, well, what happened is the question is what about the tension between Republicans and Democrats in Washington. And I said, "Look, back in the '60s and '70s, there was no tension between the Democrat majority and the Republican minority. Because the Republican minority was so comfortable in the minority. When we get to that point again, Washington will be sedate and quiet."

Moyers: Are you about to do to Democrats what Democrats did to Republicans in those days?

Norquist: In the sense that back then the Democrats were the majority party in the United States. And you could step up and run as a Democrat and you won. And you could walk into a room and know that a majority of the people agreed with your world view. Today, that's largely true for Republicans. And if the Republicans are competent and keep working at it, I believe that for the next generation, the Republican Party, not just in Washington but in state capitals as well, will be the dominant majority party in the United States for the next 25 years or more, just as the Democrats had been since the 1930's.

Moyers: You said not long ago the Democrats are toast.

Norquist: Yeah, over time. Well, actually, the presently structured Democratic Party: organized labor, trial lawyers, big city political machines, the dependency lobby, both wings of the dependency lobby, the guys who are locked into welfare dependency, and the guys who make $80,000 a year managing that dependency, making sure they don't get jobs and become Republicans. That group right there, the hate and envy class division Democratic Party that's toast. There will be a Democratic Party. There will be two parties. I don't know how the Democratic Party will restructure itself, but it cannot be the 1930s class division, trial lawyer, labor union boss party that it is today.

Moyers: That has been your goal. I've followed you for a long time. That has been your goal since you crawled out of the cradle. And in your wildest dreams could you have imagined getting to this point today?

Norquist: Yes, I think the collapse of the Soviet Union as quickly as it happened and as bloodlessly as it happened was a pleasant surprise. But everything else is largely on track. And Bush and the Republicans in the House and Senate and in the state legislatures have laid out a game plan to increase the number of Americans who own shares of stock.

Why is it important to reform Social Security? First of all, because if you're under 50, it's a lousy rate of return. You do much better off in the stock market or a bond or a five percent savings certificate. Social Security gives you a one percent, or young enough, a negative rate of return for your Social Security. That needs to be fixed. But politically when every American has the option of a personal savings account, I believe we're moving to a situation where instead of 60 percent of Americans owning some stock, we'll have 100 percent of Americans owning substantial amounts of stocks in 401K's, IRA's, personal savings accounts.

Moyers: Let me ... a couple of weeks ago, we had a report on single women in Nevada. And the woman I'm about to show you hadn't made up her mind whether she was going to vote for Bush or Kerry. She's an ordinary working woman with three children who lives in Nevada. And this was a bit of that report. Let me show it to you.

Norquist: Sure.

Michelle Mitchell: What don't the candidates understand about your life?

Penny Katick: How expensive everything is. Most people would think nothing of just stopping at the store on the way home and getting, you know, getting some milk and gas. For us it would be a gallon of milk and a gallon of gas is almost a hour's wages. And so when your son guzzles a gallon of milk and you think "No, that's supposed to last us for the rest of the week." Little things like that, but they don't realize how hard it is every day.

Mitchell: Three days a week Penny wakes up at 3:30 in the morning. She's got the first shift at the diner, a 20-minute drive from her home.

The routine is automatic by now. While her older kids are sleeping, she rouses Brandi when it's time to leave at 5 a.m. She'll take her sleeping daughter to a friend's house, where the school bus will pick her up later.

By 5:30, Penny opens the diner. She'll put in more than a 40-hour work week, and she'll make a little over minimum wage which added up to around $13,000 dollars last year. That's well below the poverty level for a family of four.

You've talked about how you are living right on the edge. So, when you're looking at the start of that next month, is it, "Okay, this is going to be the month I get ahead?" Or ...

Penny Katick: You like to think that. But it just never happens. Something comes up, like this last couple of months it was school clothes.

If I was to get sick, yeah, we would just be ... I don't know what we would do if I was to get sick. I can't. The kids aren't covered right now which scares the heck out of me.

Mitchell: So what are your plans for next year then?

Heather Katick: After I graduate, I'm probably ... most likely I'll probably go into the Army. And just, you know, that way I can get money for college that way. And just, you know, see what that Army has to offer me. And if I like it I'll stay. You know? But yeah.

Mitchell: Does it kind of scare you that joining the Army now means you'll probably be going off to war?

Heather Katick: It does. It does scare me. I mean it scares me pretty bad. But it's just a sacrifice that I'm going to have to make. You know.

Penny Katick: It just seems like it's ridiculous for the only way for a girl, you know, a young girl to go to college is to go to war, you know. It just doesn't make any sense to me. But what are you going to do? If it's a way out of here then she needs to take it.

Norquist: I sympathize with all of the things she brings up. And I would point out that the conservative movement is on her side in all these fights. She lives in Nevada.

There you have a governor, Kenny Guinn, who unfortunately has been a tax increaser. And he raises her taxes over and over again.

Norquist: That's unacceptable.

Moyers: She lives below the poverty line. She doesn't pay any taxes.

Norquist: They don't have an income tax in that state. They have sales taxes. They have property taxes.

Poor people in America don't not pay taxes. Half of them don't pay federal income taxes. But they [pay] Social Security taxes and state and local taxes that are very damaging.

Moyers: Here's the opening sentence of the business page on the day after the election, quote, "For Wall Street Firms, a second Bush term represents a lush dividend on the millions their chief executives began raising for the president in the early days of the first term." I mean, what more can you fellows do for these people? They got their sweeping cuts in dividend capital gains and dividend taxes. How much pay back is enough?

Norquist: Well, the folks who brought President Bush and the Republican House and Senate back into power again are the broad majority of Americans. One of the things that we are disappointed in is how many people here in the New York financial markets funded Kerry, how Hollywood's big money, the billionaires in Hollywood funded Kerry. So, the corporate big wigs spent an awful lot of time and money on Kerry.

Moyers: You're right about that. I have no quarrel with that. But the fact of the matter is it's the president who's in the position to pay back. And he is paying back. And the Republicans, I mean ...

Norquist: But the reason that we want to eliminate the double taxation of dividend income is not to help the company but to help the 60 percent of Americans who own shares of stock. And Bush and the Republicans want to make sure that all Americans own shares of stock.

Moyers: You say you're, you know, for years, you've said your party's committed to small government. But under your president and under your Congress, federal spending is out of control.

Norquist: Right, federal spending has increased too rapidly. There's been too much spending during the last four years, not just on defense, not just on foreign policy but on overall government.

Moyers: Is it possible that we're governed now by ideologues and theologians, ideologues who embrace a world view that can't be changed because they admit no evidence to the contrary and theologues who assert propositions that can not be proven?

Norquist: Well, in terms of ideology, I think if you ask free market conservatives and Republicans, we would say, "Take a look at what free market policies give you. And take a look at what stateist policies give you, the difference between East Germany and West Germany, North Korea and South Korea, between France and the United States."

Moyers: You're comparing Democrats to East Germany?

Norquist: Just in terms of stateism, more government gives you less growth, less opportunity...

Moyers: But you guys have been increasing the size of government. That is a fact. I'm not making that up.

You guys have increased the size of government, the cost of government and the rising deficit as the result of that. That's just a fact.

Norquist: Right, Over the last four years, the Republicans have never had the control of the Senate that you need to enforce discipline. With 55 votes, Republican votes, which is what we had in the late '90s, it will be much more ... the Republican Party will clearly be much more responsible for what happens. But those of us in the conservative movement have got to speak to the House and the presidency in the Senate and say, "Guys, it is very important that you focus on the overall cost of government while you're making other reforms."

Moyers: I'm sorry that I'm retiring at the end of December. Because I think the next four years are going to be a bonanza for investigative journalism. I just think every time you wed the state and business together like this, you get corruption flowing like the Mississippi River.

I mean, one of my favorite history books I was reading last night in that long period when Republicans and business ran the country in the last party of the 19th century, well, here's one of the quotes, Frederick Townsend Martin, "We are rich. We own America. We've got it, God knows how. But we intend to keep it."

And in that period of time, the last gilded age in the 1920's, the relationship between business and government created more corruption that actually renewed the Progressive Party and brought the Democrats to power.

Norquist: Okay, we certainly need to fight against any effort by any corporation or any industry to ask for special deals from the government. And that's why the conservative movement has always been so separate from the business community. I know the left keep thinking they're the same thing. I assure you, the business community is very aware that they're not the same thing.

Certainly, the demand for free trade is something that historically, the business community's been against. Because they like protectionism for their own industries. You see, the business community very happy with some corporate subsidies. I'm very pleased that I've worked with Ralph Nader on fighting against corporate subsidies. And I think you'll see on the right and the left getting together to fight against corporate subsidies and, frankly, on some of the civil liberty issues that have come up in the last couple of years.

I wish the liberals would help us more. We get help from the left. We don't get a lot of help from the liberals.

Moyers: Well, liberals have traditionally been part of the power apparatus that serves the same corporations quite frankly, right? And now you guys are doing the same thing. You replace one group of elites with another.

Norquist: What I'd like to do is reduce taxes on all people and reduce the power of the state.

Moyers: Keep 'em progressive?

Norquist: I'm not particularly interested in that. I want the top rate as low as possible. Certainly, you can make it progressive by having exemptions and so on. But the most important thing is to keep rates as low as possible so that it affects people's decisions as little as possible.

Moyers: You've got the power now, power you could hardly ever dream of. What are you going to do with it in the next four years?

Norquist: In the next four years, you'll see the president had four tax cuts in the first four years. I believe you'll see four tax cuts in the next four years. We now have the votes to abolish the death tax. We have the votes to go to expensing for business investment, for expanding IRAs and 401Ks so all Americans can save tax free for their retirement. We need to get rid of that three percent federal excise tax which was put in to fund the Spanish-American War 100 years ago and is still there, hitting low income Americans. We will reform Social Security so that every American has the opportunity to save for his own retirement. We're going to defeat the trial lawyers, these billionaire parasites who've been raising the cost of everything Americans buy and do. We're going to expand trade throughout the hemisphere, because we're the most competitive nation in the world economically. This is a tremendous asset for us and it's also extremely helpful, because on their behalf, we're beating down terrorists in the Third World, and I think we'll be able the make people in the Third World much better off than they would be under protectionism.

Moyers: Thank you very much, Grover Norquist, for coming here again.

Norquist: Glad to be with you.

Asleep at the Wheel

It has taken three years for the details of the terrorist plot of 9/11 to emerge. The fateful turns that led to the attacks have finally entered the public discourse. Their lessons, however, have yet to be learned.

The first lesson is that the highest officials in government did not want us to know the truth.

They already had the story they wanted Americans to believe: Nearly 3,000 people had died, we were assured, because the terrorists turned our liberties against us, had brazenly exploited our open society. According to this official view, the atrocities were inevitable, the plot so diabolical and its execution so precise that only a superhero could have prevented it.

It sounded right. For the American people, the terror seemed to have fallen out of that near-perfect September sky, out of the clear blue.

We now know otherwise. The report of the 9/11 Commission lays the story bare in exhaustive, forensic detail:


Keep reading... Show less

Outsourcing and Patriotism

Following is Bill Moyers inteview with CNN's Lou Dobbs on the PBS program NOW. Moyers starts the interview by discussing Dobbs' new book, "Exporting America : Why Corporate Greed Is Shipping American Jobs Overseas."

Bill Moyers: This book is more than an economic argument, it's a political manifesto. Let me read you the opening paragraph. Quote, "The power of big business over our national life has never been greater. Never have there been fewer business leaders willing to commit to the national interest over the selfish interest for the good of the company over that of the company's they head." Are you saying that these companies are unpatriotic for outsourcing jobs?

Lou Dobbs: I'm saying not that they're unpatriotic but they're absolutely indifferent to the national interest, that they have given other interests primacy over the national interest. They've done so because, in my opinion, of a cultural shift over the last three to four decades in this country. The absence of a countervailing political influence to the power of corporate America. Lobbyists, think tanks, across the board the power of corporate America is unparalleled in Washington, DC.

Moyers: It's not just corporations that are outsourcing jobs though. I mean in your own book you report 40 state governments, hospitals, even the non-profit Smithsonian Institution...

Dobbs: Right.

Moyers: [is] sending jobs abroad looking for cheaper labor and for skilled workers.

Dobbs: And in each instance the enablers are corporate America. They are businesses whose business it is to kill American jobs and to ship those jobs overseas. This is insidious, it is spreading, it is absolutely dangerous in every respect.

Moyers: I'm no economist. Made only a B in economics by sitting next to my wife who was very helpful to me. She made an A. But even I know that services are now so much a part of any advanced economy that it seems inevitable that some service jobs will go to where they can be performed more cheaply.

Dobbs: I think that's right. And I think that international trade is a reality of our modern existence. And it should be. I believe however that the idea that our middle class should be forced to compete on a price basis with those workers in an emerging market who are making in many cases cents, while our workers are making $15 to $20 an hour is totally unfair.

We're talking about not an economic judgment but a political judgment, a social judgment. What kind of country do we want? Do we want to destroy the middle class? Because if we do let's continue outsourcing jobs.

Moyers: But the law of classic comparative advantage...

Dobbs: Sure.

Moyers: ...has an affect. If a car if can be made more cheaply in Mexico that's where it should be made.

Dobbs: Right.

Moyers: If our telephone bill can be processed more cheaply in India that's where it should be sent.

Dobbs: Actually Ricardo did not suggest in any way....

Moyers: The great economist.

Dobbs: The economist who is the father of the comparative and absolute advantage. He did not in any way suggest that you should have the middle class of any country competing with 30 million unemployed Chinese. He never dreamed about the portability of the factors of production, capital and labor, our knowledge base, our technological advantages, which are being exported and sent to these countries for no other reason than the fact that their labor is cheaper than ours. And the idea that we would put our labor force in competition with the labor force in the case of India that's basically double our size, most of whom speak English, and work for about a tenth of our wages, is a political judgment. It is not an economic judgment.

Moyers: A political judgment?

Dobbs: Absolutely.

Moyers: But libertarian economists like Lew Rockwell, who's been on this show, says it's government that's driving these jobs overseas by their high taxation, by regulation, by the big cost of lawyers.

Dobbs: And I think there's a good case to be made that regulation, tort law, healthcare adds about, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, about 22 percent to the cost of goods. So what. It's part of the cost of a better life. That's what this society is. We're a democratic free enterprise society. Unparalleled in our success.

Are we to absolutely turn back the clock on every achievement that we've made to improve the lives of our citizens in order for a U.S. multinational to get cheaper labor in Romania or the Philippines or India or China? I don't think so.

Moyers: But isn't it an economic fact that people whose skills are obsolete or who don't seek the requisite education and training will be left behind in the world's changing markets? A world that Adam Smith and David Ricardo never could imagine.

Dobbs: I think that that is probably a fair statement. But not necessarily relevant to outsourcing. They're not sending those jobs overseas because the labor force in this country is not capable of conducting a business operation of actually doing those jobs. Not because they have an inferior education.

They're doing so because they, the financial institution, can pay cents on the dollar for labor in India, or the Philippines, or Romania and have to pay a living wage that provides a meaningful improvement in the quality of life for an American employee. And that's – that's damnable to me. Do you remember through the 1980's and the 1990's when you heard corporate leaders and some of the best management consultants in the world talking about the empowerment of the employee. The importance of empowerment to provide the basis for innovation. The importance of having a happy, satisfied, educated, striving, aspirational employee in order to drive the successful corporation. That talk has disappeared.

Corporate America through its own devices over the course of the past decade has created an adversarial relationship between the employee and the corporate leaders. And that's unfortunate. And so, yes, I think you not only can be sentimental, and I think there's room for it, but in driving a business you have a responsibility to a variety of stakeholders.

You have a responsibility not only to your investors, you have a responsibility to the marketplace, you have a responsibility to your customers, to the community in which you work. You have a responsibility to the country that makes your business possible in the first place.

Moyers: Heresy. Are you a traitor to your class? The investor class.

Dobbs: Well, I'm, you know, I think most of us are investors. And I hardly think I'm a traitor. I think it's traitorous and treasonous and absolutely ignorant for these people to be out ballyhooing double digit returns on equities when first we have to get our house in order in this country. And bring back integrity, principle, leadership to our business enterprises, to our markets. And try to do a lot better for the people who count. That is the middle class.

Moyers: The powerful editorial page of The Economist says, Lou Dobbs has embarked on an anti-trade tirade. And that you greet each new announcement of outsourcing, like the one in the New York Times this morning, as akin to a terrorist assault.

Dobbs: Right. Well, the excess I assure you is not on my side. Those critics, whether it be The Economist, a number of other writers, using language like that, it's silly. And they're not dealing with the arguments that I'm putting forward. The argument I'm putting forward is – is simple, don't put our middle class at risk by forcing only one element of our society and our economy to compete against the world. Particularly the cheap foreign labor.

I'm not on a Jihad. I'm trying simply to wake people up. Trying to point out that we deserve far better representation in Washington than we're getting. And corporate America deserves somewhat less representation in Washington. Some proportion, some balance.

Moyers: You say in your book that quote, "Corporations have overwhelmed government in the borderless global economy." How so?

Dobbs: They've overwhelmed it because they have had the maximum influence in lobbying, the creation of international trade agreements in the direction of this economy. The World Trade Organization and NAFTA, it now turns out, are really outsourcing agreements. They give corporate America an opportunity to move plant, production and yes jobs to Mexico, to any part of the world and ship back into this market.

Moyers: But your book is somewhat pessimistic on this. Because as you say this didn't just happen, this is the result of political decisions over the last quarter century. And you say big business all but controls the knowledge base on which Congress usually makes decisions –

Dobbs: Absolutely.

Moyers: – affecting economics and business. And that corporate interests spend more money on lobbying than the federal government spends on the staff of congress.

Dobbs: That's right. We need a countervailing influence to corporate America. One time it was organized labor. Labor has been so weakened in this country by both the force of corporate America and also by its own missteps and misjudgments and weaknesses. We need to find a role for institutions that can provide a countervailing influence.

What concerns me deeply, though, is that academia, our universities, many of them who resisted funding by the CIA or the federal government in the '60s and '70s are more than quick to embrace those dollars from corporate America. Understandably they want the money. But the fact is we're beholden at all cross purposes to corporate America. The independence of thought in this country, a countervailing influence is just not there.

Moyers: Aren't both parties, in effect, wholly subsidiaries of the big corporate donors?

Dobbs: Absolutely. And to watch the hundreds of millions of dollars that have moved into this campaign, Bill, has to make you sick as it does me. Because after McCain-Feingold it turns out there were one or two minor loopholes through which about a half billion dollars managed to move.

Yes, both parties are absolutely loathe to offend corporate America. They're loathe to look out and say, "You know, we're a government of the people, by the people and for the people," because I don't think the people, based on the reaction from my viewership, feel like they're being adequately represented.

Moyers: You begin with a stunning quote. I'll read it. Quote, "The 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: the growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy."

Dobbs: Absolutely. Corporate America has at this time taken – controls the national media. It controls nearly every avenue of – an American citizen's access to information about the way he or she lives, about those forces that are influencing our lives.

And corporate America is protected in Washington by the dollars it spends. It is protected in the media by some virtue of ownership.

Moyers: Do you see any sharp differences between the two parties in this campaign on this issue? I mean, John Kerry has been calling the CEOs you write about Benedict Arnolds. But do you see in the platforms and the performance and the history of these two parties any profound difference on it?

Dobbs: Unfortunately, no. The Democrats brought us WTO. They brought us NAFTA in concert with the Republicans. John Kerry – has come up with some good ideas on how to incentivize corporations not to outsource. But Roger Altman, his advisor on economics, says he's not opposed to outsourcing itself.

We can't have it both ways. I want to hear one of these candidates sharply and clearly say this country is about the people who live in it. That it's about your quality of life and we're going to do everything in our power, irrespective of our party's ideology, our party platform, we're going to examine carefully and thoughtfully our future. And we're going to understand what works and doesn't for the people.

Not just the efficiency, the – productivity, the competitiveness of US multi-nationals which is really another code word for "you're going to work cheaper and you're not going to be able to buy as much." And you're not gonna be able to provide for your children and give them that opportunity. I want one of them desperately to say, "I'm all about America and I'm going to make it work, damn it."

Moyers: Capitalism has so many contradictions.

Dobbs: Absolutely.

Moyers: I'm involved with foundations that are out to save the environment, that nonetheless invest in the energy companies that pollute.

Dobbs: Right.

Moyers: Because that's where the money is. I mean we're all caught in these contradictions. There's a website run by the Columbia Journalism Review called CampaignDesk.org. If you go there and click in you'll find a long article put up there recently called the two faces of Lou Dobbs. Have you seen it?

Dobbs: Sure I have.

Moyers: Is there a contradiction in denouncing these companies on the air and then recommending them as a financial advisor? Of saying this company is good even though it's outsourcing?

Dobbs: I don't think so. But that may be – and I do now include the fact that they're outsourcing on – in investment judgments. But I've never suggested [to] anyone they make an investment judgment based on whether a company outsources or does not outsource. I suggest people make investment decisions based on the value of the company, the importance, the relevance, the success of its products. And the commitment of its management. The commitment of its management to being a better corporate citizen.
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