Bill Moyers spoke at Boston University a week or so ago, on the occasion of the the first Howard Zinn Memorial Lecture. Here’s video, for those of you who haven’t seen it yet.
You can find a full transcript at TruthOut.org, but here’s my favorite part.
…Yet the isolation continues – and is celebrated. When Howard came down to New York last December for what would be my last interview with him, I showed him this document published in the spring of 2005 by the Wall Street giant Citigroup, setting forth an “Equity Strategy” under the title (I’m not making this up) “Revisiting Plutonomy: The Rich Getting Richer.”
Now, most people know what plutocracy is: the rule of the rich, political power controlled by the wealthy. Plutocracy is not an American word and wasn’t meant to become an American phenomenon – some of our founders deplored what they called “the veneration of wealth.” But plutocracy is here, and a pumped up Citigroup even boasted of coining a variation on the word— “plutonomy”, which describes an economic system where the privileged few make sure the rich get richer and that government helps them do it. Five years ago Citigroup decided the time had come to “bang the drum on plutonomy.”
And bang they did. Here are some excerpts from the document “Revisiting Plutonomy;”
• “Asset booms, a rising profit share and favorable treatment by market-friendly governments have allowed the rich to prosper… [and] take an increasing share of income and wealth over the last 20 years.”
• “…the top 10%, particularly the top 1% of the United States – the plutonomists in our parlance – have benefitted disproportionately from the recent productivity surge in the US… [and] from globalization and the productivity boom, at the relative expense of labor.”
• “… [and they] are likely to get even wealthier in the coming years. Because the dynamics of plutonomy are still intact.”
I’ll repeat that: “The dynamics of plutonomy are still intact.” That was the case before the Great Collapse of 2008, and it’s the case today, two years after the catastrophe. But the plutonomists are doing just fine. Even better in some cases, thanks to our bailout of the big banks.
As for the rest of the country: Listen to this summary in The Economist – no Marxist journal – of a study by Pew Research:
• “More than half of all workers today have experienced a spell of unemployment, taken a cut in pay or hours or been forced to go part-time. The typical unemployed worker has been jobless for nearly six months. Collapsing share and house prices have destroyed a fifth of the wealth of the average household. Nearly six in ten Americans have cancelled or cut back on holidays. About a fifth say their mortgages are underwater. One in four of those between 18 and 29 have moved back in with their parents. Fewer than half of all adults expect their children to have a higher standard of living than theirs, and more than a quarter say it will be lower. For many Americans the great recession has been the sharpest trauma since The Second World War, wiping out jobs, wealth and hope itself.”
Let that sink in: For millions of garden-variety Americans, the audacity of hope has been replaced by a paucity of hope.
Time for a confession. The legendary correspondent Edward R. Murrow told his generation of journalists that bias is okay as long as you don’t try to hide it. Here is mine: Plutocracy and democracy don’t mix. Plutocracy too long tolerated leaves democracy on the auction block, subject to the highest bidder.
Socrates said to understand a thing, you must first name it. The name for what’s happening to our political system is corruption – a deep, systemic corruption. I urge you to seek out the recent edition of Harper’s Magazine. The former editor Roger D. Hodge brilliantly dissects how democracy has gone on sale in America. Ideally, he writes, our ballots purport to be expressions of political will, which we hope and pray will be translated into legislative and executive action by our pretended representatives. But voting is the beginning of civil virtue, not its end, and the focus of real power is elsewhere. Voters still “matter” of course, but only as raw material to be shaped by the actual form of political influence – money…
And here’s a link to that Harper’s piece mentioned by Moyers. Hopefully, it won’t give you nightmares…