BILL MOYERS JOURNAL: WATCH VIDEO
BILL MOYERS: Listening to a seasoned reporter like Gretchen Morgenson talk about how money overrides reform calls to mind that wicked old curmudgeon and satirist from the last century, Ambrose Bierce, who described politics as "the conduct of public affairs for private advantage." That was long ago but in an eerie way he was forecasting America's perverse political culture today. It seems like every effort to reform a system that's gone awry ends up benefiting the very people who wrecked it in the first place, which is why in his classic little book "The Devil's Dictionary," Ambrose defined reform as "a thing that mostly satisfies reformers opposed to reformation."
So as we heard earlier, the new health care reform bill will hand the insurance industry up to 32 million new paying customers in the years to come, protecting their profits, feeding the insatiable greed of their C.E.O.'s and filling the campaign coffers of the politicians they wine and dine. The drug companies bought their protection before the fight even began, when the White House agreed that if they supported reform - reform, not reformation - they could hold on to their monopoly...no imports of cheaper drugs from abroad, no prescriptions filled at a lower price by our Canadian neighbors to the north.
As for financial reform, well as you heard Gretchen Morgenson say, a year and a half after Wall Street brought us so close to fiscal hell we could smell the brimstone, we still don't have reform. Senator Chris Dodd has sounded like a champion of reform ever since he announced he will not run for reelection. About time. Since 2005, his top ten campaign contributors have included Citigroup, A.I.G., Merrill Lynch and the now deceased Bear Stearns, all front-line players in bringing on the financial calamity.
Then there are the Republicans, shamelessly hawking their favors en masse to the highest bidder. The website Politico.com reports that the re-election campaign of Tennessee Senator Bob Corker - who's one of the key negotiators on financial reform -- sent an e-mail to Wall Street lobbyists soliciting contributions of up to $10,000 for a chance to meet or even grab a meal with the senator. Informed of the e-mail, Corker was shocked, shocked, saying it was, quote, "grotesque and inappropriate."
But did House Republican leader John Boehner think it was inappropriate last week when he advised the American Bankers Association to fight back against new rules and regulations?
This is of course the same John Boehner who in the summer of 1995 walked around the floor of the House of Representatives handing out checks to his fellow Republicans - checks from a tobacco company mind you. I'm not making this up.
So wouldn't we like to have been a fly on the wall earlier this year, when John Boehner sat down for drinks with Jamie Dimon, the C.E.O. of JP Morgan Chase. Reportedly he invited the financial community to pony up the cash and see what good things follow. It's the political version of loading the dice to make sure you win in the game of reform.
I'm not sure what Ambrose Bierce would say about the scam but I think he might agree that the only answer to organized money is organized people.
That's it for the JOURNAL but the debate goes on at our website on pbs.org. Just click on "Bill Moyers Journal." You'll find there just who's fighting financial reform - and how much cash they're spreading around to do it. That's all at pbs.org.
I'm Bill Moyers and I'll see you next time.