Sunday, April 05, 2009


As Bill Moyers’ interview with William K. Black goes viral, we should reflect on bias for bankers and against workers in our media

by Larry Geller

Moyers’ April 3 program is being picked up on more websites. Check out this article on, Economist: US collapse driven by 'fraud,' Geithner covering up bank insolvency.

On PBS' Bill Moyers Journal, William K. Black, a professor of economics and law with the University of Missouri, alleged that American banks and credit agencies conspired to create a system in which so-called "liars loans" could receive AAA ratings and zero oversight, amounting to a massive "fraud" at the epicenter of US finance.

But worse still, said Black, Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama's Secretary of the Treasury, is currently engaged in a cover-up to keep the truth of America's financial insolvency from its citizens. . .

The corrupt system described by Black is what Obama is supporting and sustaining. Remember, those bankers got their bonuses.

The foreclosures continue. Job loss is epidemic. Instead of increasing the availability of credit, the big banks are using their bailout for more profitable investments.

The fraud, in other words, continues, as bankers, not workers, are bailed out..

Notice also what a bad job the mainstream press is doing investigating both our regulators and the Obama team that is putting Humpty Dumpty together again (to fall another day, of course).

“Sharing the burden equally” is another fraud

At the same time, check out your local paper. The theme is not how to save our economy, but how to use the occasion of the economic meltdown to extract concessions from unions. If the mainstream press cared about the economy, they would sound more like William K. Black and less like union busting Republicans.

Moyers has already covered how workers have increased productivity while losing real wages over the past three decades.

LORI WALLACH: Well, this has to do with the wages. Trade doesn't affect the total number of jobs in the economy. It affects the kinds of jobs. So, we have sent out good jobs that pay higher wages. And we've increased service sector jobs that don't have benefits and that don't have wages. And so overall, U.S. median wages in real terms, so what you can buy, adjusted from inflation, are now at 1974 levels, despite worker productivity increasing by double. So, how much U.S. worker produces has doubled. Our wages are like they were in the '70s. [Bill Moyers Journal, June 22, 2007 ]

Workers have not only already given concessions, they are the ones now losing homes and jobs. And it’s not just factory union labor or government workers. Those outsourced good jobs mentioned include professionals who cannot find work in this country any longer.

That’s right, while the bailed out bankers use their bonus money to repaint their yachts, ordinary people, working people, already working longer hours than the other principal industrialized countries, already suffering soaring unemployment and cuts in real wages, are being thrown out of their homes or going bankrupt. Most bankruptcies, apparently, are caused by medical expenses. Our government won’t provide single-payer healthcare and the papers won’t talk about it. Those with jobs are fearful of losing them.

There’s no balance, then, in asking that the “burden” be shared. Ordinary working people not only are paying for those yachts, since there were no conditions on the money paid to Wall Street firms, but they are now being told to sacrifice even further.

Hawaii retains an ample inventory of vacation homes and time-shares. It’s a different world when you’re a CEO or bank executive. These disparities suggest that state government has options to balance the budget that might yet be tapped.

So where’s the logic in saying that it’s only fair that workers take pay cuts or make concessions? Certainly, for a particular company, that might be an inevitable course, but it shouldn’t be the plan of responsible government. It also defies logic to pay tiny “stimulus” payments on the pretext that putting money into consumer hands is what will boost the economy while stealing magnitudes larger amounts from their paychecks.

Lingle’s willingness to cut her own pay is admirable but merely symbolic. She is well compensated and in no danger of being kicked out of Washington Place. Asking state workers to do the same is an abuse. Cuts in hours or pay may be necessary in the end because, unlike the federal government, the state can’t print money, it must balance its budget. But cuts should be a last resort, not the proposal of choice.

Small business should also oppose these cuts (you’d think) because the workers are their customers.

And where is our press on this?

Moyers’ second segment on that program was an interview with two prize-winning journalists. From the PBS rundown:

Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald are the first recipients of the Park Center for Independent Media Izzy Award (named for I.F. Stone) — named "Pillars of independent media, chosen for the award, because of their journalistic courage and persistence in confronting conventional wisdom and official deception."

What we need is more journalistic courage. This applies to our national newspapers and media, but also to our local papers. Check out their coverage of the current debate over balancing Hawaii’s budget.

Where also is the critical view on why GM’s workers should give up pay and benefits (which were part of their compensation) while billions in bailout handouts save corrupt Wall Street firms from losing grossly higher benefits? Why, for example, should GM workers be asked to give up anything at all while we are allowing $5 billion of bailout money to go to a Swiss bank, UBS, that has to pay $780 million in fines for tax evasion? Does it make sense for taxpayer money to bail out a foreign bank that has caused part of their suffering, while squeezing hard working GM employees?

For one thing, if the papers are interested in increasing readership for their own survival, then they might note that they are asking a good chunk of their readers, union and non-union workers, to take cuts from already depressed wages, while they hold their subscription price firm (at $203 for the Advertiser, per year).

Is it logical to compare a newspaper subscription price to workers’ wages? It’s as logical as the paper supporting the idea that more workers need to go bankrupt to balance Hawaii’s budget.

[Side comment: with the economic storm upon us and so much to be analyzed and discussed, the Advertiser editor, Mark Platt, devoted his entire space today to the critical question of how large the weather report should be:

It gets more difficult to decide among smaller cities such as Buffalo, Fargo and Burlington, Vt. One woman called to say that we listed both Anchorage and Fairbanks in Alaska but not Oklahoma City, where she once lived. One caller couldn't understand why we no longer list Portland, Maine, instead of Portland, Ore. I tend to agree that maybe Fairbanks shouldn't be included but Portland, Ore. — with its connection to our islands — should stay. I'm not sure what to do about the father whose daughter is going to school in Raleigh and likes to check on her weather.

With so many issues that concern us and that we need to be informed about, in a paper with precious little space for discussion as it is, he’s preoccupied with a triviality.]

If readers get wise to the bias in their media, it can only accelerate the media meltdown. Readers have alternatives. Readers want to know how to save, not lose their jobs, wages and benefits.

Readers need newspapers that are responsive to them.


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