Did you see this speech from the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives?
So why should any American citizen be kicked out of their homes in this cold weather? ... Don't leave your home. Because you know what? When those companies say they have your mortgage, unless you have a lawyer that can put his or her finger on that mortgage, you don't have that mortgage, and you are going to find they can't find the paper up there on Wall Street. So I say to the American people, you be squatters in your own homes. Don't you leave. In Ohio and Michigan and Indiana and Illinois and all these other places our people are being treated like chattel, and this Congress is stymied.
No, this wasn't Alan Grayson. It was Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio, last January, and flames were coming out of her eyes. Bill Moyers' response when he showed this tonight: "Wow."
Do you think the economy is improving? Then, Bill Moyers Journal this evening is a must see. It may be the most important thing you do all week. You should stop reading this now and just watch the video. For a taste, there are excerpts and discussion below the fold, including the question: How is Obama like Louis XIV?
Moyers picks up where Michael Moore left off. He had two guests tonight discussing the economy.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur of Ohio was also featured in Moore's "Capitalism". She has served in the House longer than any other Democratic woman. She is progressive, smart, fearless and truly understands how Wall Street has completely bought the government of the United States. And she is not afraid to say so.
And economist Simon Johnson, formerly of the IMF, now with MIT:
To me, at least, the financial part of our capitalism is very seriously broken. They persuaded us to allow them to take incredible risks. And then they pushed all the downside, all those losses onto us, the taxpayer, at the same time as really hammering hard all the people who were duped, essentially, into taking out loans. People lost their houses. It's an absolute tragedy. This combination cannot go on. And yet, the opportunity for real reform has already passed. And there is not going to be not only is there not going to be change, but I'll go further. I'll say it's going to be worse, what comes out of this, in terms of the financial system, its power, and what it can get away with.
There is discussion about how the few remaining major banks have managed to shift all risk onto the American taxpayer, and come out way ahead. Johnson:
You know what else Jamie Dimon (the head of J.P. Morgan Chase) said to his shareholders? To his shareholders meeting this year, he said, with regard to 2008, the year of what we regard as the greatest financial crisis, an absolute human tragedy. He said, Jamie Dimon said to his shareholders, 'This was perhaps our best year ever.'
Moyers, as the superb journalist that he is, asks the questions that almost no other journalists are asking:
Why have we not had the reform that we all knew was being was needed and being demanded a year ago?
Rahm Emanuel, the President's Chief of Staff has a saying. He's widely known for saying, 'Never let a good crisis go to waste'. Well, the crisis is over, Bill. The crisis in the financial sector, not for people who own homes, but the crisis for the big banks is substantially over. And it was completely wasted. The Administration refused to break the power of the big banks, when they had the opportunity, earlier this year. And the regulatory reforms they are now pursuing will turn out to be, in my opinion, and I do follow this day to day, you know. These reforms will turn out to be essentially meaningless.
Moyers asks what we should do. Should Geithner and Summers be fired? Marcy Kaptur is fearless in her answer:
When Lincoln ran into trouble, during the Civil War, he got new generals. He brought in Grant. I hope that President Obama will bring in some new generals on the financial front. I don't think that any individuals who had their hands on creating this mess should be in charge of cleaning it up. I honestly don't think they're capable of it.
Moyers asks Johnson why he's scared; after all, the market is up, and the crisis seems to be improving.
SIMON JOHNSON: Another Great Depression. Right? If you don't fix the financial system, Bill. If you allow them to have the same attitude. If you- if you actually allow them to increase their economic power, their ability to take risk, and their belief that they can shove the losses onto the government. And that's why they didn't show up to President Obama's speech on Wall Street.
BILL MOYERS: Why don't they respect him?
SIMON JOHNSON: Because they think that the next time they won't even have to ask. They'll just be given the bailout that they want.
There is much discussion about the Savings and Loan debacle, Robert Rubin, and the repeal of Glass-Steagall, gutting the regulations that were put in place under FDR.
How to avert a major depression? There is more discussion about keeping the pressure on, educating the American public, good journalism, and the absolute need for getting the money out of Congress.
Perhaps the most trenchant question comes at the end:
BILL MOYERS: Does President Obama get it?
MARCY KAPTUR: I don't think President Obama has the right people around him. The poor man inherited a total mess, globally and domestically. I think some of the people that he trusted haven't delivered. I urge him to get new generals. It's time.
SIMON JOHNSON: Louis the Fourteenth of France, a very powerful monarch, was famous for having many bad things, you know, happen under his rule. And people would always say, 'If only Louis the Fourteenth knew. I'm sure he doesn't know. If we could just tell him, he'd sort it out.' You know. I'm skeptical.
This diary does not do the show justice. I've presented just a few highlights. The second segment is on health care reform, and the revolving door of influence and money. Very well done, but few surprises there for kossacks. And the last segment was a tribute to Charles Houston, a remarkable man. Definitely worth watching, too.
(Update: adios provides an excellent comment about the second segment: "I thought Moyers' essay on the health care lobby was one of the best of its kind I've seen, regardless of whether it contained any 'surprises' or not. The takedown of Baucus - and his staff - was brutal. Should be required viewing for all citizens. The reference to David Graham Phillips epitomizes why some of us consider Bill Moyers to be the anti-George Will: he uses historical analogies correctly". I agree. Thank you.)
But the first segment blew me away. Somehow, I don't think President Obama is getting the message. The comparison of Obama with the Sun King is interesting. Like Obama, he was intelligent and enlightened. He sought control over the nobility. He also presided over a number of wars, and greatly increased the power of France in the 17th and early 18th centuries. But he left France ripe for the Revolution, which occurred a scant 64 years following his death.
Michael Moore is right. We have to democratize our economy. The arrogance of Wall Street is simply stunning, and there is no evidence that anything substantial has changed. How can the United States possibly remain as the greatest country on Earth if our entire economy is based solely on shifting wealth and protecting the very wealthiest amongst us, at the expense of everyone else? No, forget the greatest country -- how can we sustain ourselves as a viable democracy at all, when we not only have re-established the Gilded Age, but have given Wall Street nearly complete dominance of the essential institutions of our government?
I am not speaking only of Congress here. The men surrounding Obama -- Geithner and Summers are straight out of the Wall Street firm that had a central role in destroying our economy, and that same firm is more powerful than ever and now has direct access to the Fed. (--Please see update below for a correction to the preceding sentence.)
And, we have a Supreme Court that seems to be dominated by corporatist justices who may seek to even further define corporations as persons. There is the very real prospect that the two most liberal justices on the Court will retire within the next several years, and could potentially be replaced -- under intense political pressure -- by more "centrist" justices.
Somehow, we must get the message to President Obama. The Nobel Peace Prize is a fabulous tribute, but what will it be worth if we permanently destroy our middle class? What will health care reform mean if our economy is in shambles?
As a start, please watch this segment of Bill Moyers Journal. (If you prefer not to watch video, or your computer doesn't handle video well, this same page also includes the full transcript.) I don't pretend to know the answers. But we are a vital and important community. Let's not underestimate our potential influence to bring about necessary changes.
And to Bill Moyers, as always: Thank you. We hope you know how much your work is appreciated, and how critically important it is to our country right now.
Good night.- - - - -
Update: I appreciate the comment by Stanjz correcting my statement about Geithner having worked for Wall Street. But he was the President of the New York Fed, and there is concern that his connections on Wall Street, especially at Goldman Sachs, may reflect undue influence.
Thanks for the Rec List, because I think it's very important that Bill Moyers get the greatest possible exposure when he does an important story like the one discussed here. As mentioned in the comments, the intent is not to castigate Obama, but to bring out in open discussion the concerns that we feel need the greatest attention. Obama himself has said on many occasions that he wants us to push him. I think it's very unlikely that the Public Option would have been seriously considered without the tremendous and unrelenting efforts of the "left", especially given the overwhelming corporate influence over Congress and the mainstream media that somehow must be counterbalanced. This is probably even more true when it comes to overall issues of management of our very troubled economy.- - - - -
Update 2: Thank you for the excellent discussion this diary has generated. Perhaps the tone is a little less, shall we say, sleep deprived, than it was in the wee hours. I awoke thinking that maybe it would have been better if I had simply stated questions, rather than injected my own concerns. After all, I am not an economist, and suggesting economic solutions is very much out of my league. But I do know that people like Representative Kaptur make sense. Her words ring true. Not just about Geithner and Summers, but about the need for Congress to truly engage, about the need to really beef up the fraud division of the FBI (so decimated under Bush "to fight the War on Terror"), and start to really clean up the unimaginable theft of the American treasury that has happened, and continues to happen, right under our eyes.
I will also mention that clearly, the Louis XIV "tease" in the intro accomplished its purpose, which was to get your attention. I could not imagine that this would be taken literally; after all, this is not an audience of tea baggers. But sure enough, I was accused of saying that Obama is Louis XIV! That I, and those of us who express our concerns "from the left", actually want Obama to fail! Wow. Well, no, I don't think Obama is Louis XIV. And I certainly do NOT want him to fail.
We are the chorus, a vast, messy, unruly cheering squad. We will never sing in perfect harmony. Which is how it should be. Reading the comments this morning, after people have had their morning coffee, gives me encouragement. We can prevail. We need to keep having our voices heard. So, more coffee!