Monday, October 12, 2009

Bill Moyers, Simon Johnson and US Rep. Marcy Kaptur



MICHAEL MOORE: We're here to get the money back for the American People. Do you think it's too harsh to call what has happened here a coup d'état? A financial coup d'état?

MARCY KAPTUR: That's, no. Because I think that's what's happened. Um, a financial coup d'état?


MARCY KAPTUR: I could agree with that. I could agree with that. Because the people here really aren't in charge. Wall Street is in charge.


MARCY KAPTUR: Let me give you a reality from ground zero in Toledo, Ohio. Our foreclosures have gone up 94 percent. A few months ago, I met with our realtors. And I said, 'What should I know?' They said, 'Well, first of all, you should know the worst companies that are doing this to us.'

I said, 'Well, give me the top one.' They said, 'J.P. Morgan Chase.' I went back to Washington that night. And one of my colleagues said, 'You want to come to dinner?' I said, 'Well, what is it?' He said, 'Well, it's a meeting with Jamie Dimon, the head of J.P. Morgan Chase.' I said, 'Wow, yes. I really do.' So, I go to this meeting in a fancy hotel, fancy dinner, and everyone is complimenting him. I mean, it was just like a love fest.

They finally got to me, and my point to ask a question. I said, 'Well, I don't want to speak out of turn here, Mr. Dimon.' I said, 'But your company is the largest forecloser in my district. And our Realtors just said to me this morning that your people don't return phone calls.' I said, 'We can't do work outs.' And he looked at me, he said, 'Do you know that I talk to your Governor all the time?' He said, 'Our company employs 10,000 people in Ohio.'

And I'm thinking, 'What is that? A threat?' And he said, 'I speak to the Mayor of Columbus.' I said, 'Why don't you come further north?' I said, 'Toledo, Cleveland, where the foreclosures are just skyrocketing.' He said, 'Well, we'll have someone call you.' And he gave me a card. And they never did. For two weeks, we tried to reach them. And finally, I was on a national news show. And I told this story. They called within ten minutes. And they said, 'Oh, we'll work with you. We'll try to do some workouts in your area.'

We planned the first one after working with them for weeks and weeks and weeks. Their people never showed up. And it was a Friday. Our people had taken off work. They'd driven from all these locations to come. We kept calling J.P. Morgan Chase saying, 'Where's your person? Where's your person?' And they finally sent somebody down from Detroit by 3:00 in the afternoon. But out people had been waiting all morning and a lot of people that's how they treat our people.


MARCY KAPTUR: 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. So, if you look at an instrumentality like the F.H.A., the Federal Housing Administration. They used to insure one of every 50 mortgages in the country. Now it's one out of four.

Because what they're doing is they're taking their mistakes and they're dumping them on the taxpayer. So, you and I, and the long term debt of our country and our children and grandchildren. It's all at risk because of their behavior. We aren't reigning them in. The laws of Congress passed last year in terms of housing, were hollow. Were hollow.

Foreclosures in my area have gone up 94 percent. And we know the basic rules of economics. Housing leads us to recovery. Housing was the precipitating factor in this economic downturn. Unless you dealing with the housing sector, you aren't going to have growth in this


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.

If you want a marker at the Federal level of how serious we are to get justice out of this financial crisis, look at the F.B.I. Look at the number of people who are really prosecuting and investigation mortgage fraud and securities fraud. It is so small

I've been one of the Members of Congress trying to increase by ten times the agents to get at the justice issues for the American people. For companies that have been hurt. For shareholders that have been hurt. Our government isn't doing it. That it's very easy to look at the budget of the F.B.I. in mortgage fraud and securities fraud and say, 'How serious is the government?' And until those numbers increase, we will not begin to get justice.


SIMON JOHNSON: Well, the final end of the last vestige of Glass-Steagall came in just now in August. Unnoted, but I think very significant. Goldman Sachs, you remember, was an investment bank, a securities company. Not allowed to be a commercial bank; didn't have access to the Federal Reserve and this ability to tap into the money supply of the country. Until September of last year, when the crisis broke, they were allowed a very short notice to convert to being a bank holding company. This was what saved Goldman Sachs in my opinion. Also Morgan Stanley. Which meant they could stay in the securities business. And they could also have access to the Federal Reserve. In August, just now, they converted to what's called a financial holding company. That may seem like a technical detail to you, but this means they can borrow from the Fed, at essentially zero interest rate now.

They can invest in, I mean, as far as we can see, from the outside, looking at their portfolio, anything they want, including, you're going to love this one, they just bought some stock, big chunk of stock in a Chinese automotive company. Okay? So, that's your money, that's your Federal Reserve, financing a highly speculative investment. And if it goes well, they get the upside. And if it goes badly, that's another one for us.


BILL MOYERS: Does President Obama get it?

MARCY KAPTUR: I don't think President Obama has the right people around him. The poor man inherited a total mess, globally and domestically. I think some of the people that he trusted haven't delivered. I urge him to get new generals. It's time.

SIMON JOHNSON: Louis the Fourteenth of France, a very powerful monarch, was famous for having many bad things, you know, happen under his rule. And people would always say, 'If only Louis the Fourteenth knew. I'm sure he doesn't know. If we could just tell him, he'd sort it out.' You know. I'm skeptical.


Exactly. As always with Moyers - dead on target. And Kaptur was a revelation! I don't know much about her, but to me she comes across as intelligent and full of passion for her work as a legislator. Johnson always worries me a little because of his IMF background, but he pulls no punches here.

And I'm skeptical also. I think Obama gets "IT." He just has a different agenda than you and I. He's a corporatist operative - politicians are all of a kind - and we are the disenfranchised.

I am a radical liberal.

We are in a post-constitutional era. By which I simply mean that we don't really have a rule book any longer. We are in the era of government by "winging it."

I am a champion of a hybrid economy because I think capitalism as we imagine it is utterly broken - and even if it wasn't broken it would be wholly inadequate to the task of being the economy for the future.

I champion socialized safety nets for the entire population. After all, it's exactly what the corporations and banks got - individuals certainly deserve at least what legal entities receive and even more.

I disdain the power of the corporations of the world. We have to knock them down to a manageable size. Corporations are the biggest problem of the post-constitutional era because the kind of capital power they represent was undreamed of at the time of the writing of the Constitution. Corporations are not only not individuals, the only true purpose of any corporation is to serve the public good as a servant of the people.

So many things are completely upside down these days that I'd have to start at a very elementary level to fully air my thoughts on any of these ideas, but that's the quick and short strokes of it.

It is good to talk of peace, but keep your sword to hand. It's a bumpy road ahead, folks!