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Extraordinary Bill Moyers interview with Marcy Kaptur and Simon Johnson

The juxtaposition is amazing enough. Go read it all immediately. I can't really do justice to it right now, but do try to think through some of the implications in comments.

One thing I can say: Thank God I don't take the A list -- more precisely, the concerns of the A list -- seriously any more. For whatever reason, they're not following the money, and that's why what they have to say is trivial compared to the scale and scope of the country's difficulties.

NOTE Here's the Populist Party Platform, 1892. Interesting. Not all of it happened, and not all that happened turned out well (initiatives and referenda) but these ideas were clearly the drivers for everything "progressive" up to and well beyond FDR. This idea never happened:

9. Resolved, That we oppose any subsidy or national aid to any private corporation for any purpose.

And in some ways, today's idea of abolishing corporate personhood altogether is more radical.

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scoutt's picture
Submitted by scoutt on

I can't wait until you have more time to explain why you think this is extraordinary. Not being smarty pants.
The thing that was extraordinary to me is that Simon Johnson believed in the "hope" message and Marcy Kaptur thinks that poor Obama is just surrounded by the wrong people.
The simple evidence (as opposed to fuzzy mean-anything-to-anyone speechifying) was Obama's record when he actually voted and the ginormous campaign contributions he got from wall street. They talk about all of the money in politics but don't make the connection.

Submitted by lambert on

... in one place. Generally one doesn't see a Congressperson and an IMF economist agreeing and saying out loud that there's been a financial coup. And one certainly doesn't see this either in Pravda or Izvestia, or on the A list. And Marcy Kaptur is dynomite. (One can only ask why all the attention on Grayson....) I agree they both pull their punch at the end -- "if only the Czar knew" -- but since Obama's a secondary figure in all this, does that matter so much? Sure, we've been pounding on all this stuff for over a year, but all that means to me is that's how long it takes to propagate...

UPDATE Note that I changed the head. Call out by name in the subject line for compliments only, please. I don't like being yelled at or badgered in the comments block any more than anyone else would.

Submitted by cg.eye on

I thought of you, Lambert. Like said above, it's shocking how they really don't connect the revolving-door financial titans being employed by Obama (and Clinton, before) with Obama *making the choice to employ them again, even though he ran against Hillary for her DLC ties*.

At least Johnson had the wisdom to snicker at Kaptur's still blind optimism. One could be charitable and say he simply thought her analogy quaint, but no: He knows what has hit the fan, and who's throwing it.

Submitted by lambert on

In fact, I think she saw the political brink she was on all too clearly, and stepped back from it.

NOTE I love the irony that Dimon sent somebody down from Detroit to Toledo. (Ah yes, Lucas County, Lucas County....) Like Detroit was the high ground here, and for all I know, it is.

BDBlue's picture
Submitted by BDBlue on

She said a lot, but she couldn't go further. Nobody as astute as she is would really believe Obama's people act separate from him. But she can't say that. So she lets Simon Johnson say it. Plus, it gives Obama an out - a chance to change course, which she clearly wants him to do. That's also smart.

It's very different when bloggers or anonymous commenters do the same thing because they aren't playing the politics Kaptur is playing, a lot of the time they really believe it, IMO. I don't think Kaptur believes it.

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

Kaptur's conclusion didn't quite fit the rest of her analysis (in terms of its perceptiveness) but your take makes perfect sense. She doesn't quite need to go there, especially if Simon Johnson says what's needed to be said, and there's an advantage in not going there.

scoutt's picture
Submitted by scoutt on

And understand the extraordinariness now.
I didn't know the name as subject protocol. Sorry about that. And I wasn't badgering you... I sincerely wanted to learn about what you saw.
Thanks again.

Submitted by lambert on

Tone is hard to distinguish sometimes.

I guess I should say extraordinary to me ;-)

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

I agree, lambert—it was extraordinary.

I was under the impression that Johnson was subtly jabbing Kaptur's conclusion that Obama needs "new generals" with his Louis XIV comment. Just as it wasn't true in that Louis XIV didn't know/wasn't responsible, it's not true that Obama needs only to change his generals and get better information. But I might be reading my own views into Johnson's comment.

I thought a few of Kaptur's comments were startling in their clarity:

Think about what these banks have done. They have taken very imprudent behavior, irresponsible. They have really gambled, all right? And in many cases, been involved in fraudulent activity. And then when they lost, they shifted their losses to the taxpayer.

[…]

Congress has really shut down. I'm disappointed in both chambers, because wouldn't you think, with the largest financial crisis in American history, in the largest transfer of wealth from the American people to the biggest banks in this country, that every committee of Congress would be involved in hearings, that this would be on the news, that people would be engaged in this. What we're seeing is-- tangential hearings on very arcane aspects of financial reform. For example, now we're going to have a consumer protection agency to help the poor consumer, who doesn't understand all of this, rather than hearings on the fundamental new architecture of reforming the American financial system, so that we have prudent lending, capital accumulation at the local level again; that we encourage savings and limit debt by the American people. Our country needs this. Those aren't the hearings that are happening.

Maybe I'm too astonished at what they said—well, really, who said it—to move into implications.

The country is broken in so many ways now, with a captured government at its core (as Matt Taibbi says, "a failed system"), but it's still amazing how and when any glimmer of that truth breaks through in an explicit way, especially when it's, as you say, from a member of Congress and the former chief economist of the IMF.

Submitted by lambert on

Not concentration. It's like Johnson and Kaptur are distilling everything that the Cassandras have been pounding on for at least a year, and with telling details and anecdotes, too. So, I feel v-a-a-a-a-lidated ;-)

But also extraordinary, or not, is the complete lack of focus on the story -- and this is the biggest story* -- by the press and our tribunes of the people in the blogosphere. (The Whole Foods Nation response here would no doubt be to parachute money in to one of their own, rather like Rahm, in fact, as opposed to letting the locals evolve...)

NOTE * Health care reform, if it had happened, would have saved lives more immediately. But this is bigger. Indeed, since the banksters and the health insurance companies are interlocked and both are getting bailed out by us, it's the same story.

Jeff W's picture
Submitted by Jeff W on

Pure, pristine, it's all there, in glorious black and white, from two unimpeachable members of the Establishment. I have no idea who this Marcy Kaptur Congressperson is but she doesn't strike me as some wild-eyed radical along the lines of, say, Elizabeth Warren. (And, as long as you feel validated, their work is done. Can we all go home now? :p)

As to the complete lack of focus by the press, at least—well, that's part of the brokenness here. (We could just as easily be agog at the failure of Congress to act in any meaningful way but that would be equally absurd.) And our tribunes of the people? Well, they're just as captured, it seems, as the other organs (the press, "our" reps) of the corporate body. Our nation turns its lonely eyes to you, lambert (you're our only hope).

Submitted by lambert on

Parking meters, and all that.

Submitted by gob on

as Johnson says in the interview. Amazing how idealistic "lefties" of my type have been systematically un-fitted by our cultural training to concentrate on such low, filthy matters. How conveeeeenient!

MARCY KAPTUR: We have to take the money out. We have to get rid of the constant fundraising that happens inside the Congress.

She even attributes "partisanship" to the fundraising merry-go-round, if I understand this corrrectly:

And then people wonder, 'Well, why doesn't Congress get along?' Because they are made into arch enemies by the type of fundraising system that is embedded in the very guts of the institution.

(For what it's worth, I thought Johnson was definitely, not subtly, disagreeing with her "if only the czar knew" line. Who knows if she even believes it herself.)

koshembos's picture
Submitted by koshembos on

It has been at 6 months since Obama has showed his hand. Nominating Geithner was a clear statement about the direction of his administration. We knew it and the 4 big ones knew it even better than anyone. Of course, they don't answer citizens application for relief, it's the victim calling for help and the phone rings at the corrupt police force.

We saw it continue in front our very eyes and very few of us, including congress people and senators, opposed Obama's war on the American people. The A-listers are goose fed by the same intellectual vein and some of them even tap into the money sources.

Why popo Clinton and the DLC is beyond me. Clinton has a great economy with money getting to the lowest levels of society. You wish Obama were the DLC; he is a Republican now!

Submitted by lambert on

Actually, Obama showed his hand by whipping for TARP, and that was in October 2008; a year ago, and not merely six months.

As for Clinton, let's try to alert ourselves to what can happen as opposed to what didn't happen. The primaries are important for lessons learned, and not because of counterfactual futures we can imagine.

tedraicer's picture
Submitted by tedraicer on

>but since Obama's a secondary figure in all this

Well, if FDR had decided to just follow in Hoover's footsteps, he would have been a secondary figure as well, but the responsbility for that choice would still have been his. There was a lot of good stuff there I agree, but until we get past the Tsar Doesn't Know (or in this case, the Black President Must Really Be Liberal In His Heart) it is all going to be essentially wasted imo.

Submitted by lambert on

See here:

BILL MOYERS: Let me show you an excerpt from the speech President Obama made on Wall Street last month, September. Here is the challenge he laid down to the bankers.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: We will not go back to the days of reckless behavior and unchecked excess at the heart of this crisis, where too many were motivated only by the appetite for quick kills and bloated bonuses. Those on Wall Street cannot resume taking risks without regard for consequences, and expect that next time, American taxpayers will be there to break their fall.

BILL MOYERS: A reality check. Not one CEO of a Wall Street bank was there to hear the President. What do you make of that?

SIMON JOHNSON: Arrogance. Because they have no fear for the government anymore. They have no respect for the President, which I find absolutely extraordinary and shocking. [And reality-based. -- lambert] All right? And I think they have no not an ounce of gratitude to the American people, who saved them, their jobs, and the way they run the world.

BILL MOYERS: In the scheme of things, it is the Congress, and the government that's supposed to stand up to the powerful, organized interests, for the people in Toledo, who can't come to Washington. Who are working or trying to keep their homes or trying to pay their health bills. What's happened to our government?

MARCY KAPTUR: Congress has really shut down. I'm disappointed in both chambers, because wouldn't you think, with the largest financial crisis in American history, in the largest transfer of wealth from the American people to the biggest banks in this country, that every committee of Congress would be involved in hearings, that this would be on the news, that people would be engaged in this. What we're seeing is-- tangential hearings on very arcane aspects of financial reform. For example, now we're going to have a consumer protection agency to help the poor consumer, who doesn't understand all of this, rather than hearings on the fundamental new architecture of reforming the American financial system, so that we have prudent lending, capital accumulation at the local level again; that we encourage savings and limit debt by the American people. Our country needs this. Those aren't the hearings that are happening.

tedraicer's picture
Submitted by tedraicer on

Sorry, I disagree. He is secondary because he chooses to be, and they have no fear of the government because he has made it clear they have nothing to fear from him. As for Congress, he is the head of the party that currently controls both houses; yes there are plenty of Dems who are on the wrong side, but there are also plenty of Dems who would be on the right side if Obama was, but are unwilling to go against him. The President in our system is not a mere figurehead unless he chooses to be.

And you do recognize your argument here is very close to the Obama apologists who claim he is doing all he realistically can?

CMike's picture
Submitted by CMike on

Click "Reply," which is found at the bottom of every comment, when you are directly responding to a particular comment. Otherwise I get confused.

Submitted by lambert on

I've done the odd bit of blogwhoring myself, but generally I try to add at least what I perceive as value to the various sites at which I post.

okanogen's picture
Submitted by okanogen on

"SIMON JOHNSON: Remember Wall Street convinced us that trading derivatives without any regulation, that all these kind of crazy housing loans, which are very dangerous for consumers. That all of this was sensible. All of this was a good way to sustain growth. That was wrong. That wasn't it. That wasn't that's not the end of the story. In the crisis, when things got bad, they also convinced the key people in Washington that they, the bankers, the big bankers, the Wall Street bankers, who are really responsible for all of these problems, they should be saved. Not just their banks, but they individually and should be saved. Their jobs, their pensions, all their perks. It's an extraordinary moment.

BILL MOYERS: You asked on your blog, just this week, a question I want to put to you now, and to both of you. You asked, 'Does this crisis reflect something about the disproportionate influence of a few incompetent investment bankers or a deeper breakdown of capitalism?'' What's your answer to your own question?

SIMON JOHNSON: Well, definitely, this disproportionate influence of some fairly incompetent bankers, that's for sure. That's what we're seeing today. That's what we've seen over the past few months. I think on the issue on the issue of capitalism, we have to take this very seriously. To me, at least, the financial part of our capitalism is very seriously broken.

SIMON JOHNSON: 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. "

It's astounding to me the cognitive dissonance in that combination of statements. The banksters were anything BUT incompetent. Clearly, everything has worked out perfectly by their perspective; things couldn't have possibly worked out more perfectly for them. As long as they were able to convince the government to cover their losses (which they did, and were assured of no matter if McCain or Obama won), then this was a risk free operation. As long as they were able to convince the government to pay their bonuses (which they did, and were assured of no matter if McCain or Obama won), then this was also a successful operation on a personal level. They both admit as much further along in the interview. But this "incompetent bankers" meme needs to be replaced with the the truth, they are really "politically-connected banksters". If there were incompetent players, they would be the ones across the table from the banksters. But if their personal futures were determined by how well they were loved by Wall Street, then they certainly didn't act incompetently either.