12/31/1998

Transcript of Bill Moyers speech at inequality.org

The original transcript is in PDF. I just hate PDF because it used to tie up in knots my old PC.

For those of you who don't have or don't like PDF, here's the last 3 pages where Moyers talks about the Bush administration and the reich wing plan to dismantle the government's social services.

I know: this sounds very much like a call for class war. But the class war was declared a generation ago, in a powerful paperback polemic by William Simon, who was soon to be Secretary of the Treasury. He called on the financial and business class, in effect, to take back the power and privileges they had lost in the depression and new deal. They got the message, and soon they began a stealthy class war against the rest of society and the principles of our democracy. They set out to trash the social contract, to cut their workforces and wages, to scour the globe in search of cheap labor, and to shred the social safety net that was supposed to protect people from hardships beyond their control. Business Week put it bluntly at the time: “Some people will obviously have to do with less….it will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more.”

The middle class and working poor are told that what’s happening to them is the consequence of Adam Smith’s “Invisible Hand”. This is a lie. What’s happening to them is the direct consequence of corporate activism, intellectual propaganda, the rise of a religious orthodoxy that in its hunger for government subsidies has made an idol of power, and a string of political decisions favoring the powerful and the privileged who bought the political system right out from under us. To create the intellectual framework for this takeover of public policy they funded conservative think tanks – The Heritage Foundation, the Hoover Institution, and the American Enterprise Institute – that churned out study after study advocating their agenda. To put political muscle behind these ideas they created a formidable political machine. One of the few journalists to cover the issues of class – Thomas Edsall of The Washington Post – wrote: “During the 1970s, business refined its ability to act as a class, submerging competitive instincts in favor of joint, cooperate action in the legislative area.”

Big business political action committees flooded the political arena with a deluge of dollars. And they built alliances with the religious right –Jerry Falwell’s Moral Majority and Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition – who mounted a cultural war providing a smokescreen for the class war, hiding the economic plunder of the very people who were enlisted as foot soldiers in the cause of privilege. In a book to be published this summer, Daniel Altman describes what he calls the “neo-economy – a place without taxes, without a social safety net, where rich and poor live in different financial worlds – and [said Altman] it’s coming to America.” He’s a little late. It’s here. Says Warren Buffett, the savviest investor of them all: “My class won.”

Look at the spoils of victory: Over the past three years, they’ve pushed through $2 trillion dollars in tax cuts – almost all tilted towards the wealthiest people in the country. Cuts in taxes on the largest incomes. Cuts in taxes on investment income. And cuts in taxes on huge inheritances. More than half of the benefits are going to the wealthiest one percent. You could call it trickle-down economics, except that the only thing that trickled down was a sea of red ink in our state and local governments, forcing them to cut services for and raise taxes on middle class working America. Now the Congressional Budget Office forecasts deficits totaling $2.75 trillion over the next ten years. These deficits have been part of their strategy.

Some of you will remember that Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan tried to warn us twenty years ago, when he predicted that President Ronald Reagan’s real strategy was to force the government to cut domestic social programs by fostering federal deficits of historic dimensions. Reagan’s own budget director, David Stockman, admitted as such. Now the leading rightwing political strategist, Grover Norquist, says the goal is to “starve the beast” – with trillions of dollars in deficits resulting from trillions of dollars in tax cuts, until the United States Government is so anemic and anorexic it can be drowned in the bathtub.

There’s no question about it: The corporate conservatives and their allies in the political and religious right are achieving a vast transformation of American life that only they understand because they are its advocates, its architects, and its beneficiaries. In creating the greatest economic inequality in the advanced world, they have saddled our nation, our states, and our cities and counties with structural deficits that will last until our children’s children are ready for retirement, and they are systematically stripping government of all its functions except rewarding the rich and waging war. And they are proud of what they have done to our economy and our society. If instead of practicing journalism I was writing for Saturday Night Live, I couldn’t have made up the things that this crew have been saying. The president’s chief economic adviser says shipping technical and professional jobs overseas is good for the economy.

The president’s Council of Economic Advisers report that hamburger chefs in fast food restaurants can be considered manufacturing workers. The president’s Federal Reserve Chairman says that the tax cuts may force cutbacks in social security – but hey, we should make the tax cuts permanent anyway. The president’s Labor Secretary says it doesn’t matter if job growth has stalled because “the stock market is the ultimate arbiter.” You just can’t make this stuff up. You have to hear it to believe it. This may be the first class war in history where the victims will die laughing. But what they are doing to middle class and working Americans – and to the workings of American democracy – is no laughing matter.

Go on line and read the transcripts of Enron traders in the energy crisis four years ago, discussing how they were manipulating the California power market in telephone calls in which they gloat about ripping off “those poor grandmothers.” Read how they talk about political contributions to politicians like “Kenny Boy” Lay’s best friend George W. Bush. Go on line and read how Citigroup has been fined $70 Million for abuses in loans to low-income, high risk borrowers – the largest penalty ever imposed by the Federal Reserve. A few clicks later, you can find the story of how a subsidiary of the corporate computer giant NEC has been fined over $20 million after pleading guilty to corruption in a federal plan to bring Internet access to poor schools and libraries.

And this, the story says, is just one piece of a nationwide scheme to rip off the government and the poor. Let’s face the reality: If ripping off the public trust; if distributing tax breaks to the wealthy at the expense of the poor; if driving the country into deficits deliberately to starve social benefits; if requiring states to balance their budgets on the backs of the poor; if squeezing the wages of workers until the labor force resembles a nation of serfs – if this isn’t class war, what is? It’s un-American. It’s unpatriotic. And it’s wrong.

Once upon a time I thought the mass media – my industry – would help mend this broken promise and save this cause. After all, the sight of police dogs attacking peaceful demonstrators forced America to recognize the reality of racial injustice. The sight of carnage in Vietnam forced us to recognize the war was unwinnable. The sight of terrorists striking the World Trade Center woke us from a long slumber of denial and distraction. I thought the mass media might awaken Americans to the reality that this ideology of winner-take-all is working against them and not for them. I was wrong. With honorable exceptions, we can’t count on the mass media. What we need is a mass movement of people like you. Get mad, yes – there’s plenty to be mad about. Then get organized and get busy. This is the fight of our lives.

Sirotablog: Cheney, Iran/Iraq & Halliburton
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