Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Galbraith Interview

Bill Moyers interviews James K. Galbraith, son of John Kenneth Galbraith, about the economic downturn that the Bush administration and its minions knew was happening and chose to ignore.

From the transcript:

Bill Moyers: Suppose that your father were around today, and '08 had happened, the Great Collapse. Do you think he might have said, "Aha. Told you so?"

James Galbraith: He did say, "I told you so," in this book, in--


James Galbraith: --in THE GREAT CRASH. He talked about the conditions under which it would recur, and he said, "No one can doubt that the American people remain susceptible to the speculative mood, to the conviction that enterprise can be attended by unlimited rewards in which they, individually, were meant to share. A rising market can still bring the reality of riches. The government preventatives and controls are ready. In the hands of a determined government, their efficacy cannot be doubted. There are, however, a hundred reasons why a government will determine not to use them."

And that's the point about the crisis, is that it could have been prevented. The people in authority two, three, five years ago, knew how to prevent it. They chose not to act, because they were getting a political and an economic benefit out of the speculative explosion that was occurring.

Bill Moyers: You mean, the people who could have prevented the dam from breaking were too busy fishing above it, and reaping big rewards to want to fix the crack in it?

James Galbraith: Sure. The Federal Reserve, in particular, knew that the dam was cracking. Alan Greenspan, I think, almost surely knew this, and chose to wait until it had washed away.

* * * * *

Bill Moyers: I want to show you something that resonates with what you're saying. I've been looking at it for a while now. It's an excerpt from a speech that Franklin Delano Roosevelt made in 1944, in the midst of war, a speech that not many people have seen, but take a look at this excerpt.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt: In our day certain economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. A second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, or race, or creed. Among these are: The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines throughout the nation. The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation. The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living. The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom, freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

The right of every family to a decent home. The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health. The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment. The right to a good education. All of these rights spell security. And after this war is won we must be prepared to move forward in the implementation of these rights to new goals of human happiness and well-being. For unless there is security here at home there cannot be lasting peace in the world.

Bill Moyers: What do you think about, listening to that?

James Galbraith: It's wonderful. It's splendid. It defined what we should have achieved in the last 50 years and in many ways, what we still need to achieve.

It's a test. It's a test for the country as a whole, as to whether we have the capacity to state and pursue a truly public purpose. We've come through a generation where we have really denied the existence of a common good or a public purpose. And I think we've recognized that that path leads to collapse, the collapse that we've seen. And that the way out is to somehow reestablish for ourselves this vision of what we really could be.

PBS video here.


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