Who Rules America?

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Provides a comprehensive look into the so-called democratic governing system of the United States of America and reveals the actual, behind-the-scene powers that rule the nation. There are two Americas; one in which people have the illusion of freedom in choosing their leaders within the framework of the constitution and thus living in an imaginary land of the free, and another, wherein all is dedicated to the ruling 1% and within which a hidden network of power governs media, Wall Street , military and industries.

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EPISODE 1:

The Debate Over Power Danny Schechter, Director:

Welcome to Wall Street, the epicenter of financial power in America—perhaps the money capital of the world

The globally-oriented financial firms based here and the New York Stock Exchange that operates here, have extraordinary influence on the politics and policies of this country

(Stand up) Danny Schechter, Director - No one has elected them, and in fact these financial firms are trying to un-do the regulations and new laws governing them, imposed by the congress

The people on Wall St

are just one of a number of un-elected and very powerful forces that operate in the shadows behind the scenes

Their the media forces, their the military and industrial forces, their the corporate forces--And their the forces that we'll be investigating in this television series

Which asks a question, that most of our media does not

Who Rules America? Danny Schechter, Director:

Every four years, Americans go to the polls to elect a president

It’s a ritual that goes back to the founding of the nation in 1776

Danny Schechter, Director:

Every four years, politics and politicians dominate our television screens, dominate our news and dominate our national discourse

Danny Schechter, Director:

President Barack Obama is running for re-election

Danny Schechter, Director:

He is attacking and being attacked by Republicans

Danny Schechter, Director:

The two parties may be fighting a political war, but pundits label it a “horse race” fueled literally by billions of dollars in campaign contributions used for pervasive advertising

Danny Schechter, Director:

The focus is on political personalities, not the forces they represent

Danny Schechter, Director:

A large industry of commentators and pollsters are paid to tell us who's ahead and who's behind

Danny Schechter, Director:

The focus invariably is on the candidates, not the issues---but everyone knows the campaigns are run behind the scenes by professional strategists, media experts, and political advisors

Danny Schechter, Director:

The political ads are cynical and slick

Danny Schechter, Director:

Almost every word is scripted

Symbols trump substance

Slogans are market tested aimed at promoting perception and reinforcing prejudices

Danny Schechter, Director:

Marketing is the mission

Selling, not telling

Danny Schechter, Director:

On one level, this whole spectacle is presented as a triumph of democracy as if the candidate who wins will run the country, but being in office doesn’t necessarily mean being in power

Danny Schechter, Director:

Americans believe they are determining their future

Are They? Do most know or are they ever told:

Who rules America? Man in Street:

I just think that these people--you can't really see them

That's what I think; people are behind the screen

They are behind a screen

Danny Schechter, Director:

Invisible? Man In Street:

To the general public

Danny Schechter, Director:

And do you think people really know what's going on? Man in street:

To some extent yes and to some extentno

Danny Schechter, Director:

To what extent yes, to what extent no? Man in street:

About 50/50

Danny Schechter, Director:

Who Rules America? There is no one right answer

Pulitzer Prize winning American Historian Eric Foner says "It’s a question that raises many more questions about power that works from the shadows

" Eric Foner, American Historian, Columbia University:

Who rules America? You know, there’s no one single easily defined group who rules America, but I think, not just now, but I think for a couple of generations we have had what the sociologist C

Wright Mills called in the 1950's a power elite:

an interlocking set of connections of people in business, in politics, in the military who pretty much determine the parameters of possible change

It’s not that they rule America in a conspiratorial way

And of course there are elected officials, but the leeway of those officials is constrained by what you might call the permanent government

Presidents come and go, but there is a kind of permanent establishment what, you know, President Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, but now it’s more a military-financial complex that really determines the limits

Danny Schechter, Director:

We're at The Left Forum, a gathering of progressive intellectuals and scholars, and students held every year here in New York City

There are 1,400 speakers this year, they don't agree on everything, but they do agree that America is not the democracy it claims to be

They all want to know, who rules America? Danny Schechter, Director:

Professor Stanley Aronowitz writes about the research of this man, C

Wright Mills who a half century ago wrote about the existence of a power elite that activists today refer to as “the 1%

” The people who run things

Stanley Aronowitz, Political Sociology Professor, CUNY:

His contribution to understanding the nature of power in America is, in the first place, to identify three institutional orders that really, together, form the power elite

An elite that is, generally speaking, unresponsive to the people, unresponsive to democratic liberties, and democratic procedures

And he said that three groups were the corporate/capitalistic institutions, the military, and the third one was a top-layer of the political director, what he called

And they are the national leaders, like the executive branch of government

Not even Congress

He said Congress was in the middle levels of power

It doesn’t really share the decision to make war, the major economic policies, and so on

It participates at some level, but basically it’s out of power

And he said that really has undercut the whole pretense of progressive and of representative government

Danny Schechter, Director:

This may be why in recent surveys, only 7 to 9% of the American people in both parties believe that the Congress, the so-called “People’s House” of Government, is representative and capable of solving the country’s problems

Danny Schechter, Director:

If politicians are trapped in a polarized and highly partisan stalemate, who does exercise the power to decide what the country’s priorities and policies should be? We asked JK Fowler, an editor of "The Mantle", a political magazine

Fowler, Editor, The Mantle:

I think it’s extremely complicated

I think there’s not one particular answer for it

I think that a lot of the stuff going on in America right now is being led by money and monied interest in Washington in particular

But I think there’s a bubbling movement from the ground up as well that’s happening

Danny Schechter, Director:

Is there a ruling class in America or is that an outdated concept J

K

Fowler, Editor, The Mantle:

No, I’m a strong believer that there is a class, in particular in New York City, where…but I don’t think it’s, they’re not hidden away in some room looking for his deeds and mind, it’s more structural

There are certain clubs they go to, there are certain streets they live on, they’re interacting with one another more… Danny Schechter, Director:

We put that question to Erin Crowell, a 30 year old working class mother from a small town in Wisconsin who is working two jobs while pursing her education

Danny Schechter, Director:

If I was to ask you like who runs America, who rules America, what is your perception of that? Erin Crowell, Nursing Student:

People who have the money to do so

People that have the money and the resources to send a lobbyist to Washington, you know, like nobody from my town can afford to send a lobbyist, you know, and say "Hey, Harley Davidson is threatening to move their plants to China unless everyone takes pay cuts, you know, and could literally shut our town down

" We can’t afford to defend ourselves

Danny Schechter, Director:

Do you feel, as an American citizen, that you have power in our country? Do you feel as if you have the ability to get your dream achieved? Erin Crowell, Nursing Student:

I feel like it’s slipping away

Um, I don’t think I do, you know, because it feels like the closer and closer I would get to that--just the dream for me is to finish college, you know, and take care of myself and take care of my son

But even that now and I understand that a lot of people in my position aren’t even able to get that far now

Danny Schechter, Director:

So, if the citizens who are supposed to be in charge don’t feel they are, who does? What we found is that by and large it’s the wealthiest Americans who call the shots through unelected institutions that drive agendas in their own interests

Danny Schechter, Director:

There may be a cabal running things, but in the end the state and the system merges, argues Canadian Political analyst, Leo Panitch:

Leo Panitch, Canadian Political Economist:

I don’t think there’s an external force controlling the American state

The American state is capitalist to it's core in the very way it’s organized

It doesn’t do it because there’s too much influence from Wall Street

It does it because it is structurally embedded with Wall Street

It doesn’t do it because there’s too much influence from a military-industrial complex

It does it because the military-industrial complex is inside the state, is funded by the state, is part of the state

Chip Berlet, Senior Analyst, Political Research Associates:

Sure there are people who conspire and there are people who act in secret but capitalism is not a conspiracy, the people who have the wealth are not a conspiracy, we know who they are, we know how they collect this money, they take it out of our pocket, they put it in theirs and it’s not a big mystery

Danny Schechter, Director:

There seems to be corporate forces in addition to Wall Street that essentially help guide our political and economic direction

Danny Schechter, Director:

Leading, are America’s top corporations, Political Analyst Michael Klare has studied the political economy of oil for 20 years and says "A lack of media coverage keeps the public in the dark

" Danny Schechter, Director:

Does the media cover it? Michael Klare, Oil Expert/Prof

- Hampshire University:

The media doesn’t cover this for the most part

In fact, the media is largely in league because of the advertising dollars that the oil and gas lobby provides

They’re very heavily dependent on advertising revenues, so they’re very careful in what they say

Danny Schechter, Director:

Who are they accountable to? Are there laws really controlling and regulating what they do? Michael Klare, Oil Expert, Professor, Hampshire University:

There are laws but they have been largely written by their lobbyists to favor them, so in fact, uh, the laws for the most part are in their favor; not in the favor of most Americans

Danny Schechter, Director:

Is there an issue where we’ve seen this very clearly, where the interest of the oil industry or the energy industry is in conflict with the interests of Americans? Michael Klare, Oil Expert, Professor, Hampshire University:

Well I will give an example that the oil industry has been pushing for drilling in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and off the coast of Alaska, for example

And they get all kinds of tax benefits for that kind of deep water drilling and they were able to do so during the Bush period with absolutely no oversight whatsoever

Hence, the Deep Water Horizon disaster

Danny Schechter, Director:

Most Americans experience the Oil industry in two places:

At the gas pump, where prices often rise because of speculation, not just supply and demand

And also through TV advertising that paints this very profitable business in the most positive of terms

Danny Schechter, Director:

Which brings us to another set of corporations…

the media companies

Danny Schechter, Director:

Jeff Cohen has been in the media and written books about it's impact in shaping how Americans think about their country, and it's system of power

He says "Media companies push propaganda for war

" Jeff Cohen, Media Critic/Prof

- Ithaca College:

It’s the same exact media quoting the same exact experts that pushed our country and the world into a war with Iraq and we were told by these media “oh, we’re so sorry, we didn’t know, we made a mistake, next time we’ll be more vigilant” but here we are next time 10 years later and the same media are blowing smoke about a weapons program in Iran that doesn’t exist

There was no WMD in Iraq either and so we’re hearing--it’s like when the war drums are beating, and I worked in mainstream TV news in this country at the run up to the Iraq war

When the war drums are beating they don’t let you put out opposing views

We tried to get opposing views that questioned the evidence, the intelligence that would justify an attack on Iraq but we were kicked off the air and now you’re finding it’s a nightmare, it’s a nightmare that’s happening again

Danny Schechter, Director:

At the same time, most people who work in major media--And I of course did as well--don't believe this, they don't buy this

They feel like they do have the freedom to cover issues, and that the networks are much more diverse in their point of view than outsiders like you and maybe now me would say… Jeff Cohen, Media Critic, Professor, Ithaca College:

Well, the way to rebut that fiction is just to look at what happened in the wake of the Iraq invasion those of us who questioned the evidence that there were "Weapons of Mass Destruction" threat, we were totally right and most of us got kicked out of the TV networks

The people who got it wrong have promoted up so this idea of diversity in the mainstream media or good journalism will win out, certainly hasn’t been proven in the last 10 years where the journalists who got it right have been punished, sanctioned or kicked out of the media

And the journalists who got it wrong, most of them have more power today to blow smoke at Iran than they had even when they were blowing smoke at Iraq

Danny Schechter, Director:

Those people—the people who own institutions---are usually very conscious of their power not just as individuals but as part of a dominant class, says independent TV producer Brian Drolet:

Brian Drolet, Independent Media Executive:

So there’s a lot of talk here about Republicans and Democrats, should we vote for the Democrats or vote for the Republicans

There’s a lot of talk about the rich versus the 99 percent, but it’s kind of, you know, there’s a certain kind of amnesia about the structure of our society that at one point in this country at least had some currency

You know, in the 30s and sometimes in the 60s you could talk about the working class

Nobody talks about the working class, it’s all about there’s a middle class and there’s the 1 percent

As if there’s no, well I guess there are some poor Blacks and Latinos or something, right? And I think that word has been sanitized and scrubbed out of the vocabulary of the people of the United States, including out of the vocabulary of the left

Now that’s not the entire left, but even the people who use the word “class” don't seem to have the ability to phrase it in a way that actually means something to people

Danny Schechter, Director:

To talk about class is not to talk about a conspiracy, but a complex system that's evolved over the years

A system that is stratified and uses campaign contributions and lobbying to insure that the politicians do the bidding of the companies

Danny Schechter, Director:

So these are the building blocks of the analysis we'll explore in this series on Who Rules America

Danny Schechter, Director:

The argument is simple, but hard for many Americans to comprehend because many of us want to believe the myths we learn in school that make us feel superior to other countries and other peoples

Danny Schechter, Director:

This has been called American “exceptionalism”—Many in America believe that God created this country as the greatest country on earth, and that’s what makes it so special

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz :

You really have to start with that as a basis for how the United States was founded

Danny Schechter, Director:

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz is one leader of America’s indigenous people—the first Americans

Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Indigenous Historian:

They were the ones to be eliminated because it was their land that was wanted, not even their labor

In Latin America the indigenous people were in-slaved and made into peasants, but in North America the Anglo-Colonialism in Canada, US, New Zealand, and Australia had the motive to essentially wiping them out and taking their land

It’s not just that they weren’t included, they were to be eliminated

Danny Schechter, Director:

And so, questions about the custodians of real power and Who Rules America-- lead back to debates on how to remake power, how to challenge it's distribution and make it more transparent and accountable

Danny Schechter, Director:

These are the issues that the Occupy Wall Street Movement is raising as it challenges institutional power in an attempt to revive grass roots democracy

Danny Schechter, Director:

David DeGraw explains Occupy's origins

David Degraw, Journalist, Analyst:

I mean, it was like such a confluence of events, everything was moving in this direction

I was looking around the world, there was protest happening in Egypt, then it moved to The Arab Spring, Tunisia, and all throughout Europe--came back

It was just a matter of time before it hit The United States, and really if you look--the occupations globally, they became like the thing to do

It's just a natural progression to show up here

I feel like it shows up here because even though wealth is so concentrated, the people have a media system where their so propagandized and they feel isolated

Occupy shows that people are not suffering alone, their coming out, raising awareness--we changed the national discourse

Danny Schechter, Director:

The movement is up against powerful forces with large budgets and the backing of police forces and the political establishment

Danny Schechter, Director:

While these activists are on the front lines of the fight for a people-ruled America many of it's people share the same hope

Danny Schechter, Director:

Do you have a sense of class being important in this country? Like their being an upper class? Erin Crowell, Nursing Student:

Oh God, absolutely

You know, I’m a waitress at a very nice restaurant and it’s very clear to me, you know, what my role is and who I am

And you can tell just from the dialogue that I have with people

Recently I talked to a General Manager of a fairly large business in our town and when I mentioned that I was going to a public school, I got kind of an eye roll, an “oh yeah, my tax dollars paid for that

” And it’s… Danny Schechter, Director:

Do you feel like there’s a lot of resentment against working people like they don’t deserve whatever they’re getting? Erin Crowell, Nursing Student:

Absolutely, and especially with the recent attacks against public sector employees, and on teachers, and people are saying they don’t deserve those benefits

We don’t get those benefits, so they don’t deserve them either

Like why isn’t the conversation, maybe we should all work to get those for everyone instead of taking them away from the few that do have them

Danny Schechter, Director:

You know, when I hear you talking, I realize there’s such a bigger picture here than most people even understand, that we have a country where the dream is slipping away for so many people and they don’t feel particularly powerful, they don’t feel they can do anything, achieve anything, make a difference

Erin Crowell, Wisconsin Nursing Student:

Right, well I think the dream has shifted to hopefully I wake up tomorrow and I’m able to pay my rent and keep a roof over my head

Or it’s like, I’ll work on achieving my dream tomorrow, but today I have to go to class and I have to get my work done

I have to go to work and I have to try to squeeze a couple of hours of sleep in and it’s… Danny Schechter, Director:

Well you’re here at this conference and there are brilliant theoreticians and analysts, and experts, professors and leaders

How do you feel about this idea that people have to get together to make a difference? Erin Crowell, Student:

I think it’s wonderful

I feel so blessed to be able to be here with people like that because I want to learn

Somebody had said to me, why don’t you leave where you are and I don’t think that’s the answer

I think that it’s my job as somebody who cares about these things to learn from these people, to learn from these brilliant minds, and so I can take this back to people and show them and explain to them where we don’t have access to this kind of thing every day, you know

So hopefully try to enlighten them a little bit

Danny Schechter, Director:

Erin expresses the hopes of many ordinary Americans who want to reshape the nature of power so that the 99%, not just the 1% rule, but as you can see and hear it's not a battle she feels she is winning

Perhaps that’s why she, like many, want to know Who Rules America

Danny Schechter, Director:

Coming up in the next episode of Who Rules America:

How the history of conflict between the 99% and the 1% goes back to the American Revolution

Eric Foner, American Historian, Columbia University:

The degree of inequality

Never before has the very, very top, the one percent, had so much of the national income and wealth in its own hands

Danny Schechter, Director:

Next time on Who Rules America EPISODE 2:

Occupy is Not New:

The History of the Fight for Democracy in America

Danny Schechter:

Danny Schechter, Director:

The question of who rules America has been debated throughout America s own history

It was originally raised and answered to some degree by the American Revolution in the 1770 s that fought for Independence from the British Crown so that Americans at least some Americans--- could rule themselves or at least they hoped they could

Danny Schechter, Director:

We're at Columbia University with Dr

Eric Foner, a historian and writer, and teacher here at the University for a long long period of time

Eric Foner, American Historian, Columbia University:

I think what is unusual today is two things

One, the degree of inequality

Never before has the very, very top, the one percent, had so much of the national income and wealth in its own hands

And you know, so that the gap is greater than ever before

And secondly, you know, Occupy Wall Street is not primarily a movement of farmers, of laborers

It doesn't have the same base & People need to learn history, that's part of our job, to know that this issue has been around for a long time

There is nothing un-American about raising the question of economic plutocracy, economic inequality

It s as American as apple pie and I think that the Occupy Wall Street people are, you know, legitimate heirs of a long and venerable tradition in this country

Danny Schechter, Director:

Today, the activists of Occupy Wall Street are continuing the fight for independence and economic justice from domination by a small elite in the name of the majority the 99% of America

Eliot Katz, Poet/Teacher:

I do think what s been brilliant about the Occupy Wall St

movement is the framing of the 1% vs the 99% and I think what we basically have is an un-democratic power structure that goes across political economic social and cultural lines

Danny Schechter, Director:

What kind of impact has Occupy Wall St

had in raising basic questions about the nature of power in America? We asked sociologist Stanley Aronowitz

Stanley Aronowitz, Political Sociology Professor, CUNY:

It has impact on perception

It has changed the conversation

The question is whether or not it will be able to change policy

And the argument that I would make is that it should not worry about changing policy in the short-run

The only way to change policy in the long-run is going to be to create even a bigger movement

And in order to create that bigger movement, what it has to do, is it has to ask the question what kind of a life do we want to lead? What is the good life? What is a vision of the way in which we want to live? Danny Schechter, Director:

David Degraw coined the 99% 1% phrase and was an early Occupy organizer

Danny Schechter, Director:

He explained why who rules America remains an urgent issue

David DeGraw, Journalist, Activist:

So you have big banks and concentrated wealth that s just rigged the political process

Investigating it--we have a country where US millionaire households have 46 trillion dollars of wealth

It's just a mind boggling number, so over the past generation all the wealth has gone to the top--really it's one tenth of the 1% more than 1%

Breaking it down even further, you have 400 people who have as much wealth as 155 million Americans

So that's 400 people who have as much wealth as half the population

Danny Schechter, Director:

The seeds of a battle that many of the Occupiers see as a new American Revolution is not really new but deeply rooted in the unresolved history of conflict in the United States between those who own and control its resources and those who want economic equality

Eric Carter, Activist:

So the question is who rules America? And that s a funny question because then you talk about power

The first thing you have to understand is America is a business venture, like stolen land, stolen property, capitalism, it s just about making money

Eric Foner, Historian, Columbia University:

You know, many revolutions start at the top

In other words, the people who began the struggle against Great Britain were merchants in Boston and New York, plantation owners in Virginia

You know, most of the founders in Virginia were slave owners, but what happens is as the struggle intensifies, they have to generate support among ordinary people

And when you do that, you break open the political system and you open the door for very, very different kinds of demands

Slaves start demanding their own freedom

Women, Native Americans start demanding greater equality

So what happens at the beginning when, you know, a more privileged class begins the resistance, that doesn t necessarily tell you how the whole process is going to take place

Danny Schechter, Director:

This conflict between the 1%--actually the

001% and the 99 percent had its echoes here in the home of America s anti-colonial uprising, in the back streets of Boston where a freedom trail today commemorates a massacre by the British and a fight for liberty

And that s where we'll take you next:

Danny Schechter, Director:

Was the American Revolution really a revolution? Eric Foner, Historian, Columbia University:

The British thought it was a revolution

No question about that

It was not a social upheaval in the way, let us say, the French Revolution was, but it certainly overthrew an entire system of government

It replaced the ruling class with another one, so that seems to be what a revolution is about, and it raised these questions of equality in the society

Not just equality in terms of one percent and ninety-nine percent, but the role of slavery in American life, the status of women in American life

It unleashed a kind of struggle-free quality among all sorts of groups which continued long after the Revolution was over

Danny Schechter, Director:

Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere

That s one of the most famous poems of the American Revolution

And here we are, in front of the statue of Paul Revere, the man who alerted all of Massachusetts that the British troops, coming into their communities, were on the Freedom Trail in Boston where the American Revolution is remembered

What kind of a revolution was it? What actually happened here in Boston back in the 1700s? What have we learned since then? Danny Schechter, Director:

Thousands of tourists and students visit these revolutionary monuments everyday but most have only a foggy idea of what really happened and tend to repeat the mythologies that are taught in their schools

Danny Schechter, Director:

Here was Paul Revere

Paul Revere was one of the great revolutionary heroes

Are you kids here to see the statue of Paul Revere? Kids:

Yes we are

Danny Schechter, Director:

Can I ask you a question about it? We re doing a little TV program here

Kids:

Yeah

Danny Schechter, Director:

Who was Paul Revere? What was this all about? Do you know? Kids:

He was a founding father

The midnight ride

To warn about the British were coming

Danny Schechter, Director:

Do you know that he was a very rich businessman, a silversmith, here in Boston and that he wanted to be in the Continental Army and they wouldn't let him in, did you know that? Kids:

Did not know that

Danny Schechter, Director:

Did you know that in Boston there was this merchant class, you know, business leaders, the one percent, who were really running the whole show in many ways and that the people were not as involved because back then there were slaves, there were indentured servants, there were a lot of people who didn t have a say in what was going on

Did you know about that? Kids:

No idea

I didn t know anything about Paul Revere

Kids:

I was supposed to learn about it in history, but I don t pay attention

Danny Schechter, Director:

My brother Bill, here, has taught history to students in Massachuesetts for many many many years

And has followed, you know, the various debates about our history

What was it about this revolution? Was it a popular uprising or was it sort of led by elites here in Boston? Bill Schechter, High School History Teacher:

Well, both were true

There were popular elements; ordinary people did resent the British, ordinary people did participate in riots and boycotts

But there was a one-percent back then

The leaders of the revolution both led it and channeled it

They were certainly not above using words like liberty and freedom to deflect and distract people from their own discontents in the colonies

Danny Schechter, Director:

And their own interests

I mean the business class of Boston didn t want more taxes on their products

They wanted to compete with the British goods

They felt that they shouldn't be taxed

And as a result, there was the original Tea Party here in Boston

Bill Schechter, High School History Teacher:

:

And there were merchants like John Hancock who was into smuggling goods

And you re right

They didn't want to pay British taxes

I mean, there were other factors behind the revolution as well

But when this revolution was codified in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention, the people who were invited were the large land owners, the slave owners, the merchant class, no women, no Indians, no blacks, no working people

Danny Schechter, Director:

Actually there were slaves that were inspired by the revolution to try to get their freedom

Some actually did

Bill Schechter, High School History Teacher:

I think the idea of the revolution and the idea of democracy were radical, inspiring, revolutionary, in ways that actually might have made the leaders uncomfortable since some of them themselves owned slaves

They really didn't want this to go viral in that way that it did around the world

Danny Schechter, Director:

So who ruled America then, in a way, their grandchildren are ruling it today

Bill Schechter, High School History Teacher:

And sometimes direct descendants of those people

So I mean, there was a certain amount of class mobility, indentured servitude disintegrated due to the chaos of the revolution, but I don t think the people who led the revolution really intended a social revolution

That was really not what they were thinking about

After the revolution, people like Daniel Shays, in Western Massachusetts, a farmer, a captain in the revolution, did try to inspire, organize another rebellion against those who, he saw, as replacing his British masters

This time they were the colonial leaders

Danny Schechter, Director:

So here we are 225 years after the Shays rebellion rocked Western Massachusetts in a challenge to the 1% of those times we have a memorial for Daniel Shays and the men who fought with him and what s interesting is we have American flags being put at what is in a sense his tombstone here, marking support for the values and the aspirations that he fought for

Dave Rothstein, American Historian:

My name is Dave Rothstein

We re at the Stagecoach Tavern in western Massachusetts, town of Sheffield

And this painting, is a painting of Daniel Shays militiaman

Daniel Shays fought in the Revolution and when he came back from the revolution and found the farms being foreclosed and many being put in prison because of the same debt crisis that we re experiencing now

There are many similarities, but essentially one of the promises of the revolution was to annul the foreign debt

And the farmers came home to discover that the debt was even greater and the banks were even tougher

Danny Schechter, Director:

Today, The Shays Rebellion is mostly forgotten but it lives on, on YouTube with songs and dramatic recreations

Danny Schechter, Director:

The irony, says historian Eric Foner, is that Shays was just a frontman for a mass movement:

Eric Foner, American Historian, Columbia University:

In fact, it was the opponents who said it s Shays Rebellion in order to find the kind of "boogey man", you know, they could attack

So let s forget about Shays as a person and think about the mass movement:

the farmers, the ordinary laborers who took to the streets, shut down the courts, and said Wait a minute, we had a revolution, we haven t installed a government that s supposed to represent the people here in Massachusetts and yet it s the bankers, the land owners and the merchants who are getting the benefit of everything

Dave Rothstein, American Historian:

It was the first Occupy Wall Street movement

They petitioned the government in Boston, for a redress, and the government ignored the petitions

And their having still had their arms, they went to these court sites and picketed to prevent the courts from sitting and succeeded to some extent until private militias were formed and the Massachusetts militias were formed to suppress it

Danny Schechter, Director:

It was suppressed right near here, right? Dave Rothstein, American Historian:

The last battle was fought in Sheffield

It was led by Brigadier Ashley who s, the Ashley House is still here, and Colonel Ashley, his parents were one of the heroes of the Revolution

So here we have the same family, building independence, but then trying to suppress it

Danny Schechter, Director:

If many white Americans were disappointed by the achievements of the American Revolution, what about Blacks and Native Americans? Dave Rothstein, American Historian:

In 1730, when Sheffield was incorporated, there were thirty black families in Sheffield

Half were slaves

Half were free

But the famous story is, again, at the Ashley house

One of the servants, Elizabeth Freeman, called Ma Betts, overheard all of the talk about the Massachusetts Declaration of Independence at the dining table

And it occurred to her that maybe she might qualify

And she actually filed in the court of Great Barrington and won her freedom

So here you have the court giving freedom on one hand and suppressing freedom on the other

Danny Schechter, Director:

Years later, a small black community in the area that Daniel Shays made famous became the home of a young man who would become a leader of the fight for civil rights

He coupled concerns for racial equality with demands for economic justice

Today, in the center of his hometown of Great Barrington, Massachusetts, there s a wall mural celebrating his political and intellectual contributions

It includes quotes from President Barack Obama and Martin Luther King Jr

:

W

E

B

DUBOIS

Eric Foner, American Historian, Columbia University:

DuBois was one of the Titans, giants, of the twentieth century, although of course he s born in the nineteenth century

DuBois put forward the issues which are still with us

The race issue in America, you know, he said in 1903 the problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color line

It s still a problem in this country and around the world

DuBois talked about economic equality and how to gain that, and he grappled with these questions

He's a brilliant writer, a brilliant thinker, and much of what he said is still relevant, I think, to thinking about American society

Danny Schechter, Director:

What about Native Americans? Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Indigenous Historian:

They were the ones to be eliminated because it was their land that was wanted, not even their labor& Danny Schechter, Director:

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz is part of America s Indigenous movements and says the people we call "Indians" were being exterminated

We asked her about the American Revolution

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Indigenous Historian:

It wasn t a revolution, it was a war of independence from, you know, the colonial overpower but it wasn't an anti-colonial revolution like the Bolivarian revolutions in South America or the Haitian revolution

Danny Schechter, Director:

So there are many different, even competing narratives about the origins of the United States

Roxanne Dunbar Ortiz, Indigenous Historian:

the United States, of course was founded as a settler s state, as a colonial state, became an imperialist power, and the democracy has always been an oligarchy, a capitalist democracy with a rhetoric of populism, which is so strongly based on race, that is if you re not black, not a slave, you re not indigenous

If you're white and a settler, then everyone can be a King, everyone can own land and be a landlord

So all these peasants who came as settlers, the dream is to be the king of the hill

So it s a very insidious kind of democracy, it s an illusion

Danny Schechter, Director:

Illusion or not, this is a subject that needs to be examined if we are to understand Who Rules America, the origins of the 1% and, then, teach about it

Danny Schechter, Director:

So this is all part of the history that most Americans probably don t know

Did you find, when you were teaching students here, that many of them just didn't know much about their own history? Bill Schechter, High School History Teacher:

I think there are many students that I taught in one of the towns that fought at Concord who were never even in the spot we re standing in now

And I think that that s true that many kids were not familiar with that history beyond local battlefields and so

Danny Schechter, Director:

The other thing about the Revolutionary War, which is relevant to today because we live in a globalized world, is that this revolution started locally here in Boston, but soon the British were involved, the Dutch, the French

It became a war of many different countries all fighting on American soil

Bill Schechter, High School History Teacher:

Well, very true and the French intervention was very critical to our success

It wasn't all through the force and valor of our eyes

There were other people involved, but I think the idea itself has played a revolutionary role in history, but the idea itself did not create a deep social revolution in the United States

And to this day people are distracted by words like liberty and freedom and justice in the same way that they were back then

Danny Schechter, Director:

Ironically, the Original Tea Party, which inspired the modern right-wing Tea Party Movement today was actually a protest against an earlier form of corporate imperialism

Dave Rothstein, American Historian:

Why was tea the issue, not corn or whiskey or something like that? It was because the East India Company had gone bankrupt in China

And the crown, the British crown, bailed them out

So they wouldn't lose their assets

But then the crown looked around and said well what does the company have that we can sell? Well it turned out what they had was tea

So they decided to market the tea and that s why it was tea that was the tax issue

So here you have a big financial failure and it was global

The implications rippled across the Pacific, rippled across the Atlantic, and we have the Boston Tea Party

Danny Schechter, Director:

:

Throughout our history there have been sort of conspiracy theories about all of this

I mean today, for example, both the right and the left seems to see the Federal Reserve Bank as sort of a conspiracy concocted in 1913 without any proper process and kind of running the show

Eric Foner, American Historian, Columbia University:

Yeah, well you know, conspiracy theories-- conspiracy thinking is deeply embedded in our political culture

My PhD supervisor, my mentor Richard Hofstadter, wrote the famous book in the 1960s, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, in which he traced out various kinds of conspiratorial thinking

Whether it was Catholics before the Civil War trying to undermine America or various other groups at various times, immigrants, others trying to destroy the American culture

Or the Trilateral Commission, remember them in the 1970s, was supposedly ruling the whole world

Now the Federal Reserve

Right, if we only abolished the Federal Reserve bank, everything would go back to some utopia of the past

Chip Berlet, Sr

Analyst, Political Research Associates:

Throughout US history you see various right wing movements point out scapegoats in the society and they re usually the folks who are already marginalized in some way or another and what happens is that there comes a moment when it becomes really useful for the elite powers whether they re in government or corporations to encourage these movements so you get a tea part of you get a militia movement like in the nineties or you get the ku klux klan in the 1800s and what this is about is taking angry mostly white people who are mostly somewhat privileged and convincing them that they re about to fall down the socioeconomic ladder

Eric Foner, American Historian, Columbia University:

I guess the basic problem with conspiracy theories is that no group can fully determine what happens

Even people with great power launch things and then they kind of lose control of them and things happen in a way that is unpredictable

Danny Schechter, Director:

When you look back at history, and you maybe can see because of it s a long time ago, all of these forces

Yet, today somehow, in the news, we never see these forces

What we see are politicians spouting various, you know, rhetoric and speeches, but we don t really know whose interests their serving, who is behind the scenes

Bill Schechter, High School History Teacher:

Well, this is why we need research

We need an understanding of who rules America because the mythology today is that it is the people who rule America

And most folks don t know a great deal, in terms of specifics, about the role that corporations play, the way politicians are tied to corporate interests

Eric Foner, American Historian, Columbia University:

Change is possible

I think when one talks about who rules America and a power elite, one should not use that to simply fall into a kind of quietism and say well nothing is possible, no change is possible, everything is under control

Many of the major popular movements in our history have been big surprises

You know, nobody expected them to come

And I think the same thing with Occupy Wall Street

Nobody expected Occupy Wall Street to come up simply out of nowhere

And so we've seen that over and over again in our history and we will continue to

David DeGraw, Journalist, Activist:

People say "The 1%, we are the 99%

" But you know, when I broke down the numbers, it is a couple hundred people in this country that have immense wealth

If you look at our election process it's something like 100th of 1% account for something like 80% of the campaign finance, I mean that's insanity, it's a rigged game

Danny Schechter, Director:

And now the ball of history has been passed to a new generation fighting to transform a large and complex country with many power centers, but just as in the past, it is determined minorities who make the difference

An elite made the American Revolution and, as we will see, a power elite still rules

Danny Schechter, Director:

Coming Up In The Next Episode of Who Rules America:

How the military and corporations took over

Chris Hedges, Former NYTimes Reporter:

The people who rule America are the large corporate entities which are supranational

They have no loyalty to the nation-state

Danny Schechter, Director:

Next time on Who Rules America

EPISODE 3:

How the Military and Corporations Took Over Danny Schechter, Director:

When Retired World War II General Dwight David Eisenhower ran for President, he was hailed as a military savior, an all American hero from the plains of Kansas

Danny Schechter, Director:

No one expected that in his farewell address, he would identify and oppose the emergence of a new power constellation:

The Military Industrial Complex:

President Eisenhower:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex

The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist…

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes

" Danny Schechter, Director:

His was a prophetic speech, especially for a military leader who saw that a fusion of government and corporate power could lead to what he called “unwarranted influence” and “misplaced power

” Danny Schechter, Director:

Fifty years later, on the warning’s anniversary, President Eisenhower’s own granddaughter Susan, documented how the military industrial complex had grown

Danny Schechter, Director:

She wrote “In less than 10 years, our military and security expenditures have increased by 119 percent

Danny Schechter, Director:

This new book on the clout of the Military Industrial Complex by William Hartung, details the power it wields

He told me how it works:

William Hartung, Author/Researcher:

Military contractors, uniform military, the Pentagon are basically pushing their interests at the expense of taxpayer, national security, in some cases our civil liberties

Danny Schechter, Director:

Is it a description of an actual reality? William Hartung, Author "Prophets of War":

Well the military-industrial complex is probably more real now than when Eisenhower coined the phrase

A company like Lockheed Martin, not only are they building missiles, they’re building cluster bombs, they’re building submarines

At the same time, they’re helping process your taxes, they’re counting the census, they’re running fingerprint databases for the FBI

So, it kind of morphed from just the military-industrial complex to sort of the national security state

So you’ve got surveillance as well as weapons building

Danny Schechter, Director:

Hartung says these companies, in effect, dictate our foreign policy

William Hartung, Author "Prophets of War":

They’ve sort of captured our foreign policy, captured our military policy really for special interest purposes to a large degree

Danny Schechter, Director:

Writer David Swanson believes that this Military Industrial Complex relies on wars or the threat of wars to stay in business

David Swanson, Media Critic/Author:

President Eisenhower pushed war propaganda in the very same speech and throughout his career, but he could not have been more right

I think he probably did not imagine how huge the problem of what he called the “military industrial complex” would become

I describe it as a banker bailout every year, it is a trillion dollars, over a trillion dollars, every year into the machinery of mass murder

It is over half of federal discretionary spending from the US government, it is as much and more than all other nations in the world put into the military each year

It is much of it unaccountable, the pentagon routinely loses quantities of money that are as much as most other governmental departments get

Danny Schechter, Director:

It’s not just that more money is being spent on arms, but the rise of the Military Industrial Complex has been accompanied by an overall rise in corporate power, not just in the military sphere

Danny Schechter, Director:

Military Contractors now have disproportionate influence, says Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics:

Sheila Krumholz, Director, Center for Responsive Politics:

There is a huge sum of money coming from defense contractors in particular, and these range from AT&T and Boeing--the largest multi-national kind of goliaths

Their primary source of revenue may be telecommunications or transportation but they have huge contracts worth a ton of money with the DOD and military

There have been a number of pieces of legislation aimed at both making that connection more transparent and trying to put a lid on the "pay to play" method that has ruled for instance ear marks

Danny Schechter, Director:

Have we seen a pattern of military and industrial collusion--industrial companies that do business with the pentagon, giving more and more money to politicians? Sheila Krumholz, Director, Center for Responsive Politics:

So many defense contractors were making contributions, spending lots of money to lobby, and in exchange winning contracts that maybe they weren't the best organizations to benefit from

There has been a lot of research done about how money greases the skids for defense contractors--I'll also say that the "revolving door" plays an important role

So it's not just money, it's other forms of elite influence where people in the department of defense are lining up their jump to the private industry where they can rake in huge sums of money in lucrative post in the private industry, that they used to regulate

Danny Schechter, Director:

Alongside the military are huge intelligence agencies with vast budgets, to spy, run covert action operations, collect personal data, and conceal how powerful interest operate

Today, the former head of CIA runs the Pentagon, and was replaced by a general

The head of the Navy Seals runs the central command, secrecy is pervasive in a national security state

Even as groups like wiki-leaks tried to disseminate hidden information

Danny Schechter, Director:

Years earlier, an auto-executive turned defense secretary, Charles Wilson said "What's good for General Motors, is good for America

" He saw no distinction between an elected government and an unelected corporation

Danny Schechter, Director:

GM was a car company that became a major defense supplier, buoyed by military spending and then years later became a mortgage lender

Driven by Wall St

originated and often fraudulent subprime loans, until it nearly collapsed and had to be bailed out by government

Danny Schechter, Director:

The U

S

Supreme Court, in its Citizens United Decision has decided that corporations like GM have the rights of ordinary people---and can openly and sometimes secretly, lobby Congress and the public, or finance political campaigns to promote their agendas

Danny Schechter, Director:

There are now many criticisms against Citizen's United

Many of the arguments can seen in this video by the "Story of Stuff" campaign

Danny Schechter, Director:

There is a also a counter-campaign underway against corporate control of politics focusing on two billionaire political donors---Charles and Edward Koch, two brothers, both industrialists and and both funders of conservative campaigns including one to suppress voting by Democrats

Danny Schechter, Director:

Filmmaker Robert Greenwald has distributed this nationwide:

Chris Hedges, Author/former NYTimes reporter:

We’ve undergone a coup d’etat; we live in a corporate state

Danny Schechter, Director:

Chris Hedges is a best-selling author and former reporter for the New York Times:

Chris Hedges, Author/former NYTimes reporter:

The people who rule America are the large corporate entities which are supranational

They have no loyalty to the nation-state

They are harvesting the country just like they’re harvesting the rest of the globe

They are implanting a global Neo-Feudalism where workers around the planet have to be competitive, which means being competitive with sweatshop workers in Bangladesh who make twenty-two cents an hour or prison labor in China

It’s a global Neo-Feudalism

It’s one that is unassailable, completely untouchable, and more powerful than the host governments that…where they’re nominally based

Danny Schechter, Director:

Hedges is not alone in this view

Professor Michael Klare specializes in studying the country’s largest industry:

Oil and Gas

Michael Klare, Oil Expert, Professor, Hampshire College:

I would say that the oil industry or the energy writ large – coal, natural gas, uranium – is the most powerful lobby in America, the most powerful economic interest and it’s tied to other powerful interests:

automobile, highway construction, suburbia, many other industries, tourism, are all linked to energy and they work together to keep America addicted to oil and to avoid the transition to alternative fuels

Danny Schechter, Director:

Do they have an influence on our politics? Or do they have an influence on what happens in Washington? What happens in the ballot boxes of America? Michael Klare, Oil Expert, Professor, Hampshire College:

They’re the biggest contributors to electoral campaigns in general, especially to the Republican Party and I think they have a very powerful influence

Danny Schechter, Director:

Do you think Americans know how powerful they are? Michael Klare, Oil Expert, Professor, Hampshire College:

Only the people who see this power in their daily lives have grasped the strength of it

Danny Schechter, Director:

For many Americans, the Military Industrial Complex is seen only as a source of jobs

And in fact, military contractors win political support and federal funds by promising to create jobs

David Swanson, Author, Activist, Blogger:

There are real jobs, people working in the weapons factories and all the subsidiary subcontractors, but it’s a fraud because you can take those same dollars and put it into any other industry, into infrastructure, green energy, education, or even into tax cuts for working people and produce more jobs than you do with the military spending…so it’s worse than nothing purely on the economic terms

Danny Schechter, Director:

For years there have been protests against America’s wars and the military, but most have targeted politicians---not necessarily the corporations who profit from making weapons and other products for the military

Danny Schechter, Director:

One of the groups that's most visible in challenging militarism is a woman’s group:

Code Pink, Medea Benjamin is a co-founder

Media Benjamin, Co-Founder, Code Pink:

Well, I’ve learned that we don’t rule America

I’ve learned that the democrats don’t rule America

The corporations rule America

I’ve been doing the work on the wars and I’ve just been floored at how powerful these weapons manufacturers are and how powerful the contractors are and that they have the ability to kind of keep it where it’s going

I mean that’s pretty amazing when you think about it

Like, I’m just doing a lot of work around the drones issue

Do you know there’s a Drones Caucus in Congress? I mean instead of having a caucus to feed pre-school children, they decided it was more important to have a Drone Caucus and that’s because all the manufacturers in their districts are funding them

David Swanson, Author, Activist, Blogger:

They are quiet open about it and in fact over fifty members of congress have created a caucus for drones, where they openly promote the use and sale of drones at home and abroad

They’ve now authorized the flight of up to 30,000 drones in US skies for whatever purpose--this is in contrast to the lack of any caucus for senior citizens, for children, for health coverage, for green energy, for human beings—there’s a caucus for robots

Media Benjamin, Co-Founder, Code Pink:

Eisenhower was so right and he was so right when he said it steals money, it robs us of food for our children, of healthcare for our parents, he was so right

And it’s just worse and worse

And you get the little puppets in Congress, and I’m in Washington now so I see these little puppets, and wish that they were like the NASCAR drivers that got to have their corporations on their suits, but they don’t rule America

The corporations obviously rule America

And when it comes to war and peace, those corporations are so powerful that they’ve kept us for the last decade and more and if we don’t do something about it, they will keep us more for the next decade

Danny Schechter, Director:

Beyond the debates about the role of the military, there may be a deeper challenge because the United States has evolved from a nation into an empire with a far flung system of bases, economic interests and inter-tangled business dealings all around the world

Danny Schechter, Director:

Top political leaders interact with corporate leaders, at meetings of elites like the Builderberg conference, The Trilateral Commission, and the International Monetary Fund meetings

It's all part of a global structure of corporate culture, politics, and power

Danny Schechter, Director:

Some like the billionaire George Soros told me a while back that the World Economic Forum is more like a networking party than a decision-making venue—decisions are often made behind the scenes, not at public events

George Soros, Investor/Philanthropist:

The Davos meeting is an enormous cocktail party, lot of contacts, people meet and so on

A lot of things are discussed

It’s actually very convenient because you can meet a lot of people whom you want to meet in a confined period of time

It is also a media event

Danny Schechter, Director:

Is it also a symbol of the growth of sort of economic power? The over political power, a loss of sovereignty by some countries? George Soros, Investor/Philanthropist:

Um, it is actually symptomatic of the age because you have Presidents and Prime Ministers courting the financiers and industrialists

Danny Schechter, Director:

Only a few Americans seem to understand how corporatization and globalization go hand and hand

Walter Teague was one of the first activists against the Vietnam War

He believes that Americans can’t see the facts because they are trapped in myths

I asked him how he would explain this situation to people on Mars

William D

Teague, Therapist, Activist:

I’d have to explain some very crazy things to them, I’d have to explain it in terms that they would perhaps understand

I would not use some of the terms that Americans commonly use because if you use the language that we’re taught in school about democracy, free will, how the united states is number one, all those terms lead the person to not being capable of understanding what you’re saying which is that there are really have been a long time (one percent, something like that) who really make most of the decisions but they are smart enough to make them in a way that keeps most Americans until recently from realizing that they’re being ruled

David Swanson, Author, Activist, Blogger:

We cannot undo the plutocracy, the clotocracy, the lack of representation without dismantling the military industrial complex

This is the 1% of the 1%, this is where we give a banker bailout every year and we don’t get a dime of it back

We borrow it from China, we pay it back with interest, we keep interest rates ridiculously low, we crash Wall St

, we bail it out—because we’ve created a war economy without any need for war

William Hartung, Author/Researcher:

Well I think if people had a better sense of how these companies, how the uniform military, how their allies in Congress are basically running the show, scaring us into spending on weapons we don’t need, I think they would have the beginnings of a tool to do something about it

But I think absent of that information, there’s sort of nowhere to start

There’s nowhere to sort of plant your feet and try to fight back against it

William D

Teague, Therapist, Activist:

So I’d have to tell the Martians it’s going to be very hard for you to understand why Americans don’t see how they’re being screwed, they don’t see it, except when it gets so bad or so contradictory or so blatant or so personal and then they wake up one day and say oh my god

Danny Schechter, Director:

Does this mean in a way that business, that Wall St, that defense contractors, and others have disproportionate power? In other words, are they one of the forces ruling our country that most people don't even know about? Sheila Krumholz, Director, Center for Responsive Politics:

I think that the money has great influence across the board, particularly where the issues are arcane, and they seem disassociated with the average americans--where constituents aren't paying attention and they're not being heard by their representatives in Washington

I think where people are paying attention, where it becomes--there is a hue and cry from regular people

It's hard for the money to beat out the merit's own policy

Politicians usually will not risk the political liability of being seen as catering to the interest bank rolling their campaign, if the voters are paying attention

Their usually not that un-wise

Danny Schechter, Director:

Most of the public doesn’t interface with the military industrial complex because they participate in the economy as consumers, but even there they are being affected by a power shift and economic inequality that drives them deeper and deeper into debt

George Scribner is an executive with a corporation that advises other corporations

Danny Schechter, Director:

Today it takes $200,000 a year to feel somewhat affluent

I asked George Scribner, how he thinks growing inequality is affecting our politics

Who's in charge of our country? We keep reading more and more about big money in politics

George Scribner, Senior VP, Digitas:

There was a great article of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1% and I think it might have been Vanity Fair but I'm not positive right now

They made a point that in politics--that I've been making in terms of business, since WWII it was ped count that made a difference, once person one vote--so you played to the vote

One person one dollar--you played to as many people as you could to get the dollars

Now, because the assets are concentrated at the high end and in the hands of the few, actually money is much more valuable, both to politicians and to marketers than the mass of people that comprise the middle class

Danny Schechter, Director:

So is a mass of people being left out now? The mass of Americans? George Scribner, Senior VP, Digitas:

They aren't being left out but they're certainly less important

So I think in a variety of ways you'll see them being less catered to, and manipulated more in a sense--in politics and in terms of marketing there will be fewer products and fewer services

Danny Schechter, Director:

That’s one view from inside the corporate world, essentially saying that the majority of Americans have less economic power, and as a result, less political power

George Scribner, Senior VP, Digitas:

People with money rule America

Because people with money can acquire power, though that

But we all have--the great thing about America is we all live within the myth that each one of us can make a difference

I think there are enough opportunities for that to happen; that makes me think the future won't be as bleak as it seems sometimes

Danny Schechter, Director:

Let’s hope so

Certainty most Americans believe their future is bright, but given the trends we’ve explored about who's in power, there certainly are doubts especially because of the danger and threat of new wars that are being planned secretly, according to professor Stanley Aronowitz:

Stanley Aronowitz, Political Sociology Professor, CUNY:

There will be a war against Iran

As a matter of fact, unless you refuse to count embargos, things like that are going on at this very moment, that is to say in March of 2012, that’s an act of- that is virtually an act of war

That we are saying to the Iranians "either you bow to our demand that you do not develop nuclear weapons and you renounce nuclear weapons or otherwise we will continue to bar your goods from going back and forth

" I mean after all, the market is part of the system

So they’re saying you have no market rights

Danny Schechter, Director:

So there is a war underway right now? Stanley Aronowitz, Political Sociology Professor, CUNY:

Oh, I think so

Danny Schechter, Director:

But most Americans don’t really know it, do they? Stanley Aronowitz, Political Sociology Professor, CUNY:

That’s right

Danny Schechter, Director:

Do they really know about this power elite? Do they really know about what C

Wright Mills talked about so many years ago? Why is that and how can that change? Stanley Aronowitz, Political Sociology Professor, CUNY:

Cause' we don’t have a left that really continually, in an effective way, talks about who has power in America

The Occupy movement talked about ninety-nine percent being deprived of economic power and about inequality, but it is not even close to being an analysis that can be disseminated throughout the entire society

We don’t have a system of daily newspapers

We don’t have a weekly newspaper

We have Twitter

We have, you know, various other kinds of social media that we have access to, but it does not replace the kind of systematic analysis that can take place as a result of having our own media

Danny Schechter, Director:

So Americans, in a way, are still in the dark…and I think The Left Forum and so many other efforts are attempts to challenge that, to change that

Stanley Aronowitz, Political Sociology Professor, CUNY:

Well yes, that’s right

Danny Schechter, Director:

And yet, even as President Eisenhower exposed the Military Industrial Complex, he also expressed a very American deeply felt desire for peace and justice, that history has largely forgotten

Video - President Eisenhower:

"And that in the goodness of time, all peoples will come to live together in a peace guaranteed by the binding force of mutual respect and love

" Danny Schechter, Director:

Coming Up in the Next Episode of Who Rules America:

The Power of The Media

Jeff Cohen:

“So if you’re looking at who rules America or who owns America it’s the same people who propagandize to America

” Danny Schechter, Director:

Next time on Who Rules America

EPISODE 4:

The Power of The Media Danny Schechter, Director:

From the earliest days, freedom of the press was what defined America

Thomas Jefferson who helped write the Declaration of Independence believed a free media was essential for a free nation, saying:

"Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter

" Danny Schechter, Director:

That was in 1787

Today, our newspapers seem to be fading in importance in a multi-media world that is largely owned and controlled by a handful of large media corporations

Jeff Cohen, Media Critic, Professor, Ithaca College:

“I think we’re probably the most media dominated society in the world

" Danny Schechter, Director:

Jeff Cohen worked in major media

Now, he is one of the industry’s fiercest critics:

Jeff Cohen, Media Critic, Professor, Ithaca College:

half a dozen corporations own and control most of the mainstream media in our country so if you’re looking at who rules America or who owns America it’s the same people who propagandize to America

Danny Schechter, Director:

The press --- and the outlets that report news or convey information are just a small slice of vast media empires producing entertainment products that also sell a way of life based on consumption

Jeff Cohen, Media Critic, Professor, Ithaca College:

When you look at who’s on the boards of media corporations they’re also on the boards of US oil companies and they’re on the board of US military contractors so trying to study who owns America you’re really also--these are the people that own the media

We don’t have a state media but in some ways it’s very much like a state media…it’s the corporate state

Danny Schechter, Director:

If this is true, then we can say that the American media doesn't just report news

As we'll see it's not independent of the system, but a pillar of it

It re-enforces the world-view and defends the interests of those who rule America

Danny Schechter, Director:

Thirty years ago, fifty companies dominated American media

Now it’s down to six

Here are some charts on media ownership that illustrate this concentration

Danny Schechter, Director:

With new global digital enterprises like Google, Facebook and Twitter growing in importance worldwide, U

S

based media becomes a transnational force

Danny Schechter, Director:

The U

S

media companies are themselves owned in large part by hedge funds, mutual funds and finance companies

Barry James Dyke is an asset manager who has studied Media ownership

Barry James Dyke, Financial Advisor, Asset Manager:

the research which I’ve done it’s unequivocal and I’ve kind of stumbled into this is that the media companies, the major media companies, ie:

the Disney’s, the CBS’s, the news corporations, all of them, this is all public documents, is that they’re all actually owned by mutual fund companies

The majority shareholders are owned by mutual fund companies, so, and also, they also get a lot of their revenue from these companies so you’re never going to any consistent criticism about these fund companies

Danny Schechter, Director:

Are these companies investigated by the media? Barry James Dyke, Financial Advisor, Asset Manager:

No they’re not

Danny Schechter, Director:

Are they responsible to the public in some way, are they accountable

do the public know what they’re doing? Barry James Dyke, Financial Advisor, Asset Manager:

The public really doesn’t have a clue

They really don’t know what they’re doing Danny Schechter, Director:

He has documented his findings with charts in his book, The Pirates of Manhattan

Danny Schechter, Director:

What’s the consequences of that for our country? Barry James Dyke, Financial Advisor/Asset Manager:

Well people are not going to be getting the truth

Danny Schechter, Director:

But there is a lot of coverage, especially of politics that is often treated as a sporting event with an emphasis on poll numbers and election results

Mary Boyle follows media coverage of elections for Common Cause

Danny Schechter, Director:

What about the role of the media? Is the media helping to strengthen our democracy or do you think it’s helping to divide us? Mary Boyle, Vice President, Common Cause:

Well, I think that’s a great question

I think that there are a couple things going on there

Obviously you’ve got kind of cable channels that are in different camps and they are not showing different points of view

You’ve got Fox News showing the right

You’ve got MSNBC showing the left

And so with a set-up like that, you have Americans that are just kind of tuning in to the channel they want to listen to, that kind of expresses their views, and you’re not kind of seeing a mix of an opinion, a debate, anything like that

You’ve also got, you know, the shrinkage of the media; you’ve got less coverage of what’s going on

And I think this is particularly concerning more around kind of state based and local politics where there’s even less coverage of what’s going on in politics

Danny Schechter, Director:

But even as the world is known for its diversity, American media is not---editorially and ideologically the power elite tends to reflect the views of the government and the people who shape its views

Dissenting politicians like Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr

have a had time getting their views out:

Rep

Jesse Jackson Jr

, (D-Illinois):

Who owns the media, how the media’s translated? Some of the moguls and titans of the media and industry are part of the problem

They shape a narrative for the American people, a narrative that ultimately leads millions of people to vote for candidates based upon the narratives that they shape, based upon the talking heads that they control

And those Americans tend to vote and tend to engage the system on the basis of that which they hear

Media is a significant part of this problem

Danny Schechter, Director:

Historian Eric Foner agrees

He says it’s not just political bias at work—but what the media, as a business feels it's forced to focus on to attract ratings and revenues:

Danny Schechter, Director:

Somehow that idea of power behind the people in office is not really in our media very much, it’s not really in people’s minds very much

They personalize politics, their personalities combating each other, but they don’t look at who’s behind the scenes

Eric Foner, American Historian, Columbia University:

You’re quite right that the media focuses on personalities, you know, and often the quirks of personality:

Clinton’s sexual escapades or whether Obama was born in the United States or not or Romney and his cars or whatever, his not paying taxes and many other things

Those are not totally unimportant issues, but maybe it’s the nature of the media today in and of itself in that it has to go for the quick news, deep investigative reporting is not emphasized as much as perhaps it was in the past, and you got to sell papers

And scandal sells papers, personality sells papers, celebrity sells papers

So you’re right

The larger nature of how the system operates tends not to get emphasized as much

Danny Schechter, Director:

It’s not even understood by many people

Eric Foner, American Historian, Columbia University:

Well it’s hard to understand

This is a very large country, over three hundred million people, a very, very complicated economy, and political system

So it’s difficult to understand exactly how things operate, but I think- but I think in a certain sense, the anti-government sentiment which is rife in this country, which is generally associated with the right wing, is also a response to the feeling- it’s an in-co aid feeling, it’s not an analytical feeling, but it’s a feeling that government is aloof, it is not responsive, it does not really represent the people, it represents some very particular interests

And that sense is pretty widespread in this country

Danny Schechter, Director:

Media watch groups are also concerned about the lack of diversity within the media that makes it unrepresentative of the country it serves in racial, ethnic and gender terms

Chris Hedges, Former New York Times Reporter:

The unwritten credo of The New York Times is do not alienate those for whom we depend on for money and access

Danny Schechter, Director:

Chris Hedges was an award-winning journalist for the New York Times, an American media star:

Chris Hedges, Former New York Times Reporter:

And that means the power elite, and the financiers who advertise

But it’s expandable

I mean, you have, at least in the positions that I was in, the possibility to do journalism

Not that there aren’t restrictions or constrictions

There are

And not that they can’t be punishing

Danny Schechter, Director:

Hedges work is still very respected, but he believes that much of the press is ultimately a charade that covers up for power, more than covers it, especially when it reports on elections

Chris Hedges, Former New York Times Reporter:

Yeah, because the political theater

I mean the personal narrative of the candidate, it’s all irrelevant

It’s meaningless and people- we still play the game

I mean, look, every totalitarian country I covered had elections whether it was in Syria, Iran, Egypt, anywhere else

They all play the charade

I mean, even East Germany did

And that’s the charade we play

When we have a compliant, corporate media, that pretends that that charade is real

So, I think the problem is that the illusion still remains so powerful

But people are changing, but the illusion is still so powerful that people confuse where power actually exists

Danny Schechter, Director:

How does the New York Times cover the power centers that many people say rule America? Chris Spannos edits the New York Times Examiner that monitors the newspaper’s content every day

He believes the paper has become an accomplice to the power elite:

Chris Spannos, New York Times Examiner:

The New York Times, as an institution, is almost like a mini nation

And the correspondence, the op-ed writers, the editors, they’re almost like diplomats in how they carry themselves and their own self importance and the way that they communicate with other politicians and diplomats and they are very influential…

Danny Schechter, Director:

Would you say that they’re a disseminator of ideology in America and not just of information? Chris Spannos, New York Times Examiner:

Absolutely

They disseminate a very particular ideology in that their readership is primarily managers and people who make around (corrects himself) over $90,000 dollars a year and so they cater to a managerial perspective and so they have a pro-management, when they’re discussing labor relations, they often have a pro-management view, a pro-business view

Danny Schechter, Director:

Financial journalists like Stacy Herbert and Max Keiser found that that pro-business view in some media outlets was often uninformed, as they told me on a radio show

Stacy Herbert, Financial Journalist:

From December 2008--so well after the collapse of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers--the market’s tumbling a 1,000 points in a day and the head of BBC world news business said--and we had a 10 episode contract, "Do you think the financial crisis will last all the way through these 10 episodes?" Danny Schechter, Director:

So in other words, the people actually in charge of planning the coverage are very un-informed themselves… Max Keiser, Financial Journalist:

Well, the mainstream media are themselves deeply in debt

The news organizations have become entertainified--to compete they take on enormous amounts of debt, so the bankers, they don't want to insult their creditors because they might cut off their lines of credit

They don’t have- They’re not un-biased in this regard in any stretch of the imagination, you see this most spectacularly with the NYT, their coverage of the Wall St

is pitiful

Danny Schechter, Director:

One reason the press is so-pro business is that they are themselves businesses

The people who run media companies increasingly pay themselves huge salaries and bonuses---the same way that bankers do, says Barry Dyke

Barry James Dyke, Financial Advisor/Asset Manager:

Les Moonves, I couldn’t believe it, he made 59 million in 2009 and he racked up--just disclosed the other day that he made close to 70 million in 2010

Danny Schechter, Director:

And that’s the head of CBS

Barry James Dyke, Financial Advisor/Asset Manager:

That’s the head of CBS

Danny Schechter, Director:

But you’re saying that all of them are really running their businesses as if they were banks

Barry James Dyke, Financial Advisor/Asset Manager:

I mean that’s pretty good, that’s banker pay, 70 million dollars is a lot of money in anyone’s book and that’s what they’re getting paid

Danny Schechter, Director:

So the media companies are really part of this whole system of who rules America, they’re part of these interconnecting, interlocking relationship with financial institutions

Barry James Dyke, Financial Advisor/Asset Manager:

There’s no question, there’s not about it, you got the media companies which are huge, part of the empire, the media companies, the bankers of course, you have your massive unions, you have other factors as well but the media is definitely part of it, and the asset managers

Jeff Cohen, Media Critic, Professor, Ithaca College:

That’s exactly it, the corporations that own the US media and own US television are very wealthy and very powerful and the people at the top of the news networks get paid an awful lot of money

I have not ever earned anything close to the money I earned in the one year I worked where GE was my boss at MSNBC so what I think happens is self censorship where the people who rise to the top have learned how not to rock any boats and they know that if they do rock boats they will lose their huge salaries

Danny Schechter, Director:

Newspapers like the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal tend to frame a deeper narrative that tells us what we should believe matters

Danny Schechter, Director:

They set the agenda that influences what TV News programs also cover

For example, they don’t focus on inequality and class differences says Independent media executive Brian Drolet

Brian Drolet, Independent Media Executive:

They don’t talk about the working class and part of it is, it’s like the idea that, they promote thos idea that you buy a lottery ticket and you could win

You’re already thinking you could win

So if you’re in the working class or part of the working class that’s unemployed, you still have this hope that somehow you’re going to go into the middle class

Danny Schechter, Director:

So there's been very little attention paid to class

You were saying that the media doesn’t really discuss this, they don’t really highlight class differences in America; they’re much more comfortable talking about racial differences or ethnic differences

At the same time, in their business practices, they’re very conscious of demographics, what class are they’re attracting, upper class, how to cater their advertising, how to sell it

Brian Drolet, Independent Media Executive:

Right…

I mean the internet is a perfect example of where they’re constantly slicing and dicing who you are, so they know exactly how much you make, so they can pitch what kind of products to you

But that’s this whole sort of madness of the consumer society that’s been created by modern capitalism, but the key thing that you’re getting at is that even though there is a reality of class, or working class, in this country and a Ruling Class or a bourgeois class, people have been trained not to think in those terms so they don’t even know who they are

Danny Schechter, Director:

Some networks like Fox News, owned by Rupert Murdoch, seem to be more comfortable presenting a right wing political line

They have helped shift many media outlets to the right:

Danny Schechter, Director:

That may be so, but old media is being eclipsed by the new, says George Scribner, The Vice President of Digitas, a company that comes up with digital strategies for big companies and (SHOW COVER OF STUDY) studies how affluent consumers now drive marketing in an era of growing economic inequality

George Scribner, Senior VP, Digitas:

The one thing that's different now is that the media is owned by everyone

The thing that’s kind of leveling off the dollars to some extent is that everyone has access to twitter, everyone has access to blogging, and there’s this new kind of fast and fluid coalition building--like Occupy Wall Street was one example of that, the arab spring was an example of that, so in some ways there's a new check and balance

I don't think thats necessarily changing the restructuring of income and wealth, but i do think there's another trip switch that might help us when things get too bad

Danny Schechter, Director:

So, the digital media in a way is where democracy is today

It's not in politics, it's not in big business, it's not in big money

George Scribner, Senior VP- Digitas:

Yes

That's true

I think that's well said

Danny Schechter, Director:

There is some debate on how free the Internet really is, given corporate control and government censorship but it does make possible more interactivity

At the same time Media attention still tends to revolve around a political elite with authority---even if that elite doesn’t necessarily have the power to shape priorities or impose policies

Danny Schechter, Director:

When you talk to ordinary Americans, many of them feel it's totally fair

They’re seeing different points of view, they’re seeing people who are critical from time to time

They see the media as the liberal media in some instances

Jeff Cohen, Media Critic/Prof

Ithaca College:

… I was in the Soviet Union and it was, we were always raised in this country that that’s pure propaganda and frankly it was very ineffective propaganda because they never pretended to have two points of view

They would have some one point of view saying how great things are, but in our country propaganda is really effective because they have the appearance of debates…

Danny Schechter, Director:

Jeff Cohen says that just as Americans were misled about Iraq before the war, they are being misled today about Iran

He pointed to a study about Iraq before the American invasion that found that of some 393 people who were interviewed on all the networks, only three were anti-war

Jeff Cohen, Media Critic/Prof

Ithaca College:

Because almost everything we knew about Iraq before the invasion turned out to be false and almost everything we’re learning today about Iran is not accurate and we went to the New York Times a couple months ago where they said that the international Atomic Energy Association has put out an assessment that the nuclear program in Iran has a military objective and Fair, this media criticism group went to the Times and said which report is that, we’ve never heard of it

The Times knew they’d made a big error, it was a prominent error, they removed the sentence from their website but they refused to correct the error Danny Schechter, Director:

It's not just wars that get propagandized, media does not often cover the people behind the scenes who run things, says William Hartung who has written about the Military Industrial Complex

William Hartung, Author/Researcher:

You would think there would be some independence in the journalism on this issue, but is some cases reporters have even said to me well you know I can’t go after the Pentagon harder, or the companies harder, or this nexus of influence harder because this company is a big advertiser in the paper and we’ll get pressure if we do those kinds of stories

So we’ll do stories about the war in Afghanistan, we’ll repeat what the President has to say on an issue, but there’s not really a lot interest or resources put into investigating these kinds of connections

Danny Schechter, Director:

David Swanson, who also writes about military policy, agrees:

David Swanson, Author/Activist/Blogger:

Well, the corporate media in the United States is integrated with the military industrial complex, some of the same corporations are making profits from both

There are two major political parties that don’t have much disagreement on this topic, so it’s not a topic for debate no matter if 90% of the public is upset about it…its not acceptable news

Danny Schechter, Director:

Michael Klare, who's investigated the destructive power of oil and gas companies, says the same is true when it comes to that industry:

Michael Klare, Oil Expert/Professor- Hampshire College:

The media doesn’t cover this for the most part

In fact, the media is largely in league because of the advertising dollars that the oil and gas lobby provides

They’re very heavily dependent on advertising revenues, so they’re very careful in what they say

Danny Schechter, Director:

Big Business—a wealthy and frequent advertiser in the media, is often not scrutinized by the media

That was the case in the financial crisis, says Sheila Krumholz of the Center for Responsive Politics

Sheila Krumholz, Executive Director, Center for Responsive Politics:

So, these are complicated issues, the issues are difficult to understand on a good day, and they seem again very arcane and un-important to the average American

So its possible that some media were laboring away trying to explain why this was critical information that the voters need

I think a lot of blame though can be laid at the feet of the media for the financial collapse

Ultimately, what we do know is that it's critical if there's any perfect scenario that shows why transparency and paying attention and scrutinizing the powerful players and what they want and what they're doing to get their way

The financial crisis is that perfect example, it shows us how important transparency is

Danny Schechter, Director:

At the same time, media has become to be so pervasive, on line and off, on TV and our mobile phones, that many Americans say that they are becoming victims of information overload:

the more they watch, the less they know

Sheila Krumholz, Executive Director- Center for Responsive Politics:

Information overload, is, I think, is a serious threat to democracy because it doesn't work if people aren't vigilant

Nobody is going to hold members of Congress accountable for you, you have to make sure that you're heard

I think there's also the sense that because there is this tension, some would say healthy tension—between-- concerned about protecting the process in democracy and government from money's undue influence versus protecting freedom of speech and privacy

Nobody wants to censor information, we want our representatives to have all the information, even if it's coming from deep pocketed corporations, unions, or trade associations

Very narrow interest

We just want to make sure that they're doing their job to seek alternative perspectives, even if their coming from groups that have no power, and have no money

Danny Schechter, Director:

Media criticism tends to revolve around what being covered and not covered and not on the way media narratives shape how we think and what we think about

That’s the power of media and why it is now among the forces ruling America

Danny Schechter, Director:

Coming Up In The Next Episode of Who Rules America:

Money Now Controls Politics Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder- Code Pink:

And you look at our system, it’s so broken, nobody in their right mind would try to copy our system if they wanted real democracy

Danny Schechter, Director:

Next Time on Who Rules America EPISODE 5:

The Selling of The Government

Danny Schechter, Director:

Every school child learns:

Power in Washington is formally divided three ways:

between the Executive Branch in the White House now occupied by Barack Obama, Danny Schechter, Director:

In the Judicial Branch topped by the Supreme Court with 9 judges, all political appointees

Danny Schechter, Director And, the Legislative Branch where the Senate has 100 members with two from every state, and the House of Representatives, 435, drawn from districts across America

Danny Schechter, Director This is the formal system of checks and balances that is supposed to keep the country on the stable course of democracy

Danny Schechter, Director:

And yet, wherever you go in this Capital of America, and meet the people who are most informed about how the government really works, you hear that the system isn’t working, and that the voters are not in charge

Danny Schechter, Director:

You hear it from a member of Congress:

Rep

Jesse Jackson Jr, (D-Illinois) Who controls America? An elite group of people who function in a stratosphere globally and beyond the Constitution, beyond the reach of Government

They have enormous resources

Danny Schechter, Director:

You hear it from an expert on our elections:

Mary Boyle, Vice President, Common Cause:

Our politics are being hijacked

They’re being hijacked by anyone-- by people who are willing to spend millions of dollars to elect or defeat certain candidates

Danny Schechter, Director:

You hear it from the head of a public interest group:

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

We have a plutocracy

We have a corporate plutocracy and the rules in Washington are written by the corporate lobbyists working on behalf of the biggest corporate interests in the country

Danny Schechter, Director:

And you hear about lobbyists from a veteran former Congressional staffer who would only talk to us if his face and voice were altered:

Anonymous, Former Congressional Staffer:

99% of the people I see lobbying Congress are white men and women who you can tell wear very nice, expensive, suits and ties and dresses and they are going into the Republican offices

I rarely see African Americans here

I rarely see Hispanics

I rarely see Asians

I rarely see Muslims, um, it’s like you see these very well dressed guys who just came off of their jets and you can tell they’re right out of the country club and they’re going into the Republican offices asking for a tax cut of some kind

Danny Schechter, Director:

These are not just opinions

This well-researched book by William Domhoff details how the government today is being run by powerful elite forces outside the government

As we will see, his conclusions are supported by experienced insiders here in Washington, D

C

All of these insiders say that money and special interests are now in control

They, too, ask :

WHO RULES AMERICA Danny Schechter, Director:

In Washington, we spoke with leaders of three respected watchdog organizations that specialize in researching and analyzing hidden forces operating behind the scenes

Danny Schechter, Director:

Public Citizen focuses on corruption and accountability issues

Robert Weissman is their President and described how laws get passed:

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

How does a piece of legislation emerge? How does it become law, how does it get implemented, and how does it get enforced? At every step of the way, you really have sort of corporations in whatever industry dominating the process

Danny Schechter, Director:

Why don’t Congressmen, the people we elect, challenge this system?

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

Well, they are products of the system and-- so they’ve got an inherent bias of favor-- look, they’ve succeeded in this system one way or another

And those who challenge it are going to have to fight really entrenched power

So there are, of course, there are many of them who are very good and who do challenge the system, but by and large people got to Washington because they figured out how to make the system work for them

Even if they came in as insiders, most of them are quickly educated on the ways that things really do work in Washington if they hope to get things done or to get re-elected

And basically comes to their corporate interests

Sheila Krumholz, Director, Center for Responsive Politics:

Where does the money come from? The top one hundred donors have given 77 percent of the money going to super pacts

That means one percent of the donors are giving 64 percent of the money

This is a tiny elite that can afford to make the contributions that are going to be most influential in this election cycle

Danny Schechter, Director:

This Website, OpenSecrets

org, documents where all the money in politics originate

Sheila Krumholz oversees it as the Executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics

Sheila Krumholz, Director, Center for Responsive Politics:

Well, I think many of the people who are concerned about money's role in Washington and how it greases the skids for private narrow interest--to kind of rule the day, believe that money, that the members of Congress and policy makers control the levers of power but that the donors--the kind of patrons of these people are operating the strings, so they are--the politicians are kind of the visible locus of power, but the people behind them really are calling the shots

Danny Schechter, Director:

How do we find out who those people are?

Sheila Krumholz, Director, Center for Responsive Politics:

Well, we have millions upon millions of records of donations to federal candidates, political action committees, including leadership pacts--which are their kind of slush funds that they control, and the parties

We also can see money going directly to the super pacts--these are the political action committees which are supposedly are only giving contributions to groups that are spending money to run independent expenditures--independent of the campaigns and parties

The problem is of course that there's this secret pot of cash being collected by groups that do not disclose where the money is coming from, and they are running advertising--political ads which are often quite damning, and nasty, and sometimes irresponsible but are highly influential

and we have no idea where their money is coming from

Danny Schechter, Director:

She showed us what their data shows:

A small minority controlling the process with very few millionaires funding all politics

Sheila Krumholz, Director, Center for Responsive Politics:

There are 610 registered super pacts, 195 of them are putting up the money for the ads so far, but this chart really demonstrates what a dramatic increase we’ve seen in spending on advertising by these groups

So in 2012, we’re seeing over a hundred million spent

That’s a hundred percent increase over the amount spent in 2008 and a four hundred percent increase over last cycle

Danny Schechter, Director This is a list of lobbying clients between 1998 and 2012:

The US Chamber of Commerce spent $831,895,680,00

00 The American Medical Association $269,507,500

00 General Electric $268,810,000

00 The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America admit to $219,393,920

00 for lobbying

And there are many many more

Danny Schechter, Director:

2012 could be a turning point year in American politics because of all the big money that is literally being invested

Mary Boyle, the Vice President of Common Cause, explains:

Mary Boyle, Vice President, Common Cause:

In who is ruling America, you certainly have to look at the people who are giving the most money to political campaigns

They are highly influential people who give a lot of money to political campaigns, millions of dollars, want something for return

They tend to be really savvy business people who have made a lot of money because they know what they’re doing and they don’t make investments without wanting an investment on their return

Rep

Sheila Jackson Lee, (D-Texas):

It’s unfortunate, but obviously it buys media time, um, it also buys constant mail efforts

And also, obviously, you support, candidates who will ultimately come to the United States Congress who may vote your way

Michael Hudson, Political Analyst :

The largest contributors to campaigns in America are the financial institutions

The second largest contributors are real estate developers

That means that if you are running for office, you have to get elected by promising to support policies that are supported by the real estate sector and by the financial sector that lends to the real estate sector

Danny Schechter, Director:

And doesn’t this really kind of put democracy under threat?

Mary Boyle, Vice President, Common Cause:

Yeah

I mean corporations are free now due to Citizens United and a couple of other court rulings to give more money than they have even been allowed to be before

And that is certainly a threat to our democracy because what is does is it drowns out the voices of regular people

Danny Schechter, Director:

It’s discouraging, in one sense, in that the election of 2008 showed a tremendous number of people who want change and yet there seems to be at every turn change is being resisted by minorities that are very skillful at undermining change

Mary Boyle, Vice President, Common Cause:

Certainly, 2008 was the change election

And we have been disappointed there has not been more change coming from the White House

Danny Schechter, Director:

Now that President Obama is running for re-election he, too , is spending most of his time raising two billion dollars for political campaigns

That’s why Robert Weissman says this scandal involves both parties:

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

Yeah, it’s a bipartisan problem for sure

The two billion is just the Presidential race

The overall national race will probably be around eight billion

Obama is an extremely talented fundraiser

So he’s going to be able to raise big money

The massive chunks of outside super rich money and corporate money though, look like they’re going to go overwhelmingly to the Republicans

Mary Boyle, Vice President, Common Cause:

It is so expensive to run for office, whether it’s the Presidency or the state legislature, that you just have to go out and start raising money from people who want something in return to run for office

Danny Schechter, Director:

The money in politics just doesn’t just finance candidates

It pays for lobbyists

In 2011, there were, 12,654 lobbyists spending $3

32 BILLION dollars on influencing politicians, agencies and regulators

Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder, Code-Pink:

I was with a group of twenty women from the Middle East last week and they said they wanted to know about Code Pink and our work

And I said come to Congress and meet us

And we met in the cafeteria and we looked all around and said all these people are lobbying Congress and they think they’re going to have some influence, but the influence doesn’t happen here

There is a special place in the capitol that special people go to that we can’t go to and that’s where the people who have money go to do the lobbying and they also have their special parties where they pay a lot of money to have a face-to-face with their Congress person

That’s where things get done

Danny Schechter, Director:

The scholar Frances Fox Piven says that’s because of another problem:

not all Americans can or do vote:

Francis Fox Piven, Political Science/Sociology:

Well, we have a very developed very twisted, and very distorted system of electoral representation

It is distorted not only by big money although that’s certainly very, very important because of the advertising and the campaigning that it makes possible, but a lot of people do not in fact have the franchise and even those who vote are not represented fairly, people in smaller states have more representation and so forth

Danny Schechter, Director:

So this helps explain why small but well funded groups like the pro Israel Lobby or pro-military lobby can have so much impact

Joanne Landy has examined who makes foreign policy

Joanne Landy, Campaign for Peace and Democracy:

It’s an informal network of the people who rule America

Even though they don’t go around wearing signs saying we rule America, that’s who makes the pol- whether it’s with politicians or whether it’s with think tanks or with the military or you know, they’re all interconnected

Danny Schechter, Director:

Landy says these lobbies are more united than divided:

Joanne Landy, Campaign for Peace and Democracy:

There’s disagreements among them, but they’re disagreements about methods, not goals

You know, so some people think we should get rid of some nuclear weapons

Other people think you should hold onto them all, but the differences are really, they cover the gamma from A to B as they used to say

Francis Fox Piven, Political Science/Sociology Professor, CUNY:

The sort of day-by-day run of the mill reality is that those who have high positions in politics and strong connections with moneyed interests, and the moneyed interests themselves run the country

Danny Schechter, Director:

We are now on the way to the Congress which now enjoys less than a 10 percent approval rating from the public

Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder, Code-Pink:

You know how you know a Congressperson? Not only do they have a little pin here, but they never carry anything

It’s always an assistant who’s carrying something and all they get is people who are fawning over them

And so they’re in their bubble and I don’t think they recognize that the country is so cynical about them

Danny Schechter, Director:

The Congressman are cynical too

I literally ran into Representative John Conyers in a dark hallway

He’s the longest serving member

He complains that they are being deluged by lobbyists

Danny Schechter, Director:

Are you seeing a lot of Wall Street people donating to congress, trying to stop the reforms?

Rep

Jon Conyers Jr, (D-Michigan):

I don’t see, you don’t see that, but you know it’s going on

They haven’t stopped

Danny Schechter, Director:

I mean if Congress wanted to reform financial, you know, the financial laws, and it seems like they’re being stopped at the regulatory level by all these donations from members of Congress--I mean from big banks and Wall Street

Rep

Jon Conyers Jr, (D-Michigan):

Well, it shows up on the quarterly, so, but I have no reason to believe that there’s been any cessation of that, any reduction

And so, you get the same results-- stagnation

Danny Schechter, Director:

Two weeks later it was reported that the huge bank, JPMorgan Chase, lost two billion dollars gambling on exotic, derivative products

Danny Schechter, Director:

It was later reported that the bank’s lobbyists had fought against a new rule that if passed, would have prevented their giant loss

Danny Schechter, Director:

The internet buzzed with the bad news

Danny Schechter, Director:

But none of the commentary I saw discussed the lobbying by JP Morgan Chase

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

One of the amazing lessons, I think, of everything that led up to the crash is they can’t control themselves even to the extent that they will destroy their own industry

Even if they will destroy their own company, the short term profit motive seeps in so many pores and individuals and divisions and office, and whole companies, they will destroy themselves, so we definitely can’t trust them to figure out how to control themselves

Danny Schechter, Director:

Public Citizen later played a role outlawing insider trading by members of Congress on information they obtained in hearings and investigations

Public Citizen considered it corruption

Danny Schechter, Director:

Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr

, the son of the famous civil rights leader has been representing Chicago’s second district for 17 years

He’s consumed with investigating and explaining how the system was set up historically to serve states’ rights and special interests:

Danny Schechter, Director:

We asked him why Congress has become so dysfunctional:

Rep

Jesse Jackson Jr, (D-Illinois):

I’ve never seen it more polarized

I’ve never seen it more divided along geographical lines, along factional lines, along economic/political lines

(2:

41) It’s not what the democracy was conceived to be

It’s not what it was supposed to evolve into

And unfortunately the American people are the victims of this process

Danny Schechter, Director:

How would you answer that question:

who rules America?

Rep

Jesse Jackson Jr, (D-Illinois):

There are two types of material power in this country and the world

One is political and one is economic

We the people have the power, politically, to control and determine the economic system and there is a constant struggle between people power and economic power

We the people control, through the political system, our economic destiny and the economic destiny of the nation

Increasingly the heavy hand of the economic system is controlling the political system and manipulating the people

Who controls America? An elite group of people who function in a stratosphere globally and beyond the Constitution, beyond the reach of Government

They have enormous resources

They own the media, the power to investigate, they get to shape the narratives of the stories, they get to model and position candidates for public office and shape an image in front of the American people -- an image that oftentimes does not jive with reality, and yet the American people see this image of leadership and they vote for it

Only to find out the human frailties and the shortcomings of the individual at a later date

Danny Schechter, Director:

We met a former Congressional staffer who worked on the hill for a leading legislator for 12 years

He agreed to talk with us only if we blacked out his face and distorted his voice

He was scathing in his description of how decisions get made

This is a great institution but unfortunately you have an untold amount of members of Congress that spend 60% of their time raising money

And then, because they have to run every two years, which makes no sense, they have to raise millions of dollars just to be competitive to go on television because the CBS, ABC, NBC and CNN charge this outrageous amounts of money to get TV commercials

It ought to be free or very low cost, so what happens is that these members of Congress are relying on well-intentioned staffers, many of them are just out of college, many of them are interns, to make major decisions on foreign policy and domestic policy and health care and employment and jobs

And they’re not really mature enough

Danny Schechter, Director:

He also told us many of the staffers get bought off by special interests and big donors:

Anonymous, Former Congressional Staffer:

And a lot of these, um, young people are just out of college, just out of graduate school

They have to pay back these enormous college loans and graduate school loans

They’re paying unbelievable rent in Washington, D

C

and Northern Virginia

Oftentimes more than a third of their income, a lot of them are taken care of out of work, uh, family members

So there’s a pressure for them, I’m sorry, on them, to go work for the moneyed interests on K Street

A lot of staffers, even progressive staffers, have left the Hill and worked for the large drug companies or worked for the oil companies

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

Well, it’s usually the biggest companies in whatever industry you’re looking at

If you’re looking at overall national economic policy, Wall Street is the dominant influence

You want to know what’s happening in the pharmaceutical industry, there the big farmer’s got- calls the shots

As-- within the financial industry, which factions are most important, it’s still really the biggest institutions that set the agenda

David Swanson, Author, Activist, Blogger:

There have been polls on where Americans think our money goes in our government and just about nobody has a clue

People wildly over estimate how much goes to aid, and of course part of that is because we talk about weaponizing foreign nations as aid

They wildly under-estimate how much goes to the military

Danny Schechter, Director:

And yet, says our whistle blowing former Congressional aide, the real problem is not just corporate power

Anonymous, Former Congressional Staffer:

The biggest problem in America is not the corporations, it’s not even necessarily the money for campaigns

The biggest problem is that the American people don’t really organize themselves in their congressional districts to mitigate the power of special interests

They’re not utilizing their democracy because they don’t know how the game works

The donors know exactly how the game works

You give a member of Congress the money and they’re gonna probably do what they’ve asked them to do

If you’ve got millions and millions of people who’ve voted for Obama or vote for their member of Congress and that’s the end of their political involvement, then that’s the end of democracy

Danny Schechter, Director:

Coming up Next:

The Role Wall Street Plays

Sheila Krumholz, Director, Center for Responsive Politics:

Wall St

, the banks, and the financial industry at large is the single largest source of campaign cash in the United States and it has been for years if not decades

Danny Schechter, Director Next time on Who Rules America

EPISODE 6:

The Role Wall Street Plays Danny Schechter, Director:

No series about who rules America can leave out Wall Street s financial clout

We've left it s impact for last secure in the knowledge that in today's America, this financial district is a key power center, a hub for the financialization of an economy in which the control of big money is often central to the control of politics and society

Danny Schechter, Director:

We have spoken with a respected corporate executive who told us point blank that the rich now rule America

George Scribner, Senior VP, Digitas:

My personal opinion is a large part of what's happening economically is due to basically globalization, and digitization of business

That can't be stopped Danny Schechter, Director:

Professor Stanley Aronowitz quotes the famous sociologist C

Wright Mills on the same theme from 50 years ago

Stanley Aronowitz, Political Sociologist Professor, CUNY:

Wall Street, a financial sector, is the leading edge of corporate capital

And it was the leading edge of corporate capital in the mid-fifties

Of course today, it s much more accentuated because of the relative decline of industrial corporations

Danny Schechter, Director:

Many Americans see all this as a conspiracy by an unaccountable secret cabal that operates like a power center beyond democratic control

The Internet is filled with videos about shadowy billionaires and their plots to control everything

Danny Schechter, Director:

Is Wall Street a conspiracy and what role does it play in who rules America? Is it an outside job or an inside job? Leo Panitch, Canadian Political Economist:

It s not a matter of elites outside the state

Although of course they have enormous influence, but the reason they have enormous influence is because the state is structured to be reproducing their power and authority in the society

Danny Schechter, Director:

Leo Panitch, he's an economist, an analyst, and I think he offered a perspective that we really haven t heard before

He s sort of fighting against the conspiratorial idea that there s a small group of people in a room somewhere running things

He s talking about the structure of the society, the values of it, who really runs things

Danny Schechter, Director:

Wall Street is not only a place---it is an industry with thousands of interconnected firms that call themselves the financial services industry, but they are much more than that

They are deeply involved in how our country is run says Robert Weissman, the head of the public interest group Public Citizen

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

Well you can t understand what s happening in the country the last thirty years in terms of economic policy and really in the way the country has evolved politically without understanding how Wall Street has grown in power

It s grown in economic power and its grown in political power and that s been synergistic

They use their political power to wipe out a whole range of regulations that control them

Danny Schechter, Director:

In the past, investors would buy stocks in real companies in industries that generated jobs, provided services or created products of value

Those days are gone

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

They become a bigger and bigger portion of the economy Danny Schechter, Director:

Then, we went from an economy of production making things-- to one based on consumption buying and selling things

Consumers soon drove 70% of the economy as banks, private equity companies and hedge funds grew in size

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

As they became a bigger portion of the economy, they were able to leverage more and more political power in a really horrible cycle for the functioning of democracy

And what that led up to, of course, was the crash in 2008

Danny Schechter, Director:

So consumers and governments went deeper and deeper into debt, and then bought and sold debt, while they changed laws regulating their activities

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

A whole series of deregulatory moves that had been enabled by the influence- the political influence of Wall Street, led to the actual functioning of the economy to be a disaster

Danny Schechter, Director:

Why? Because, as billionaire investor George Soros told me years ago, the capitalist economy is also inherently unstable, and prone to bubbles and crashes

George Soros, Investor:

I work with the theory that financial markets are inherently unstable and to prevent excesses you need some kind of intervention, supervision, regulation

Unfortunately the prevailing idea is that markets tend towards equilibrium, and so we work with a false concept of how financial markets operate

Danny Schechter, Director:

We were told by someone for example that the beauty of globalization is that no one is in control

George Soros, Investor, There is a great advantage in that because controls have their own problems

In fact, markets are more efficient than centralized controls, but it doesn t mean that there should be absolutely no control

In fact, if you look at reality, ever since you had capitalism and ever since you had financial markets, you have had crisis and each time there was a crisis, there was something done to prevent a recurrence

Danny Schechter, Director:

The Problem this time is the dramatic surge in debt

Look at this----these are charts showing the debt of the United States---page after page, illustrating how much money is owed

It s mind-boggling

Danny Schechter, Director:

It gets even more complicated when you start talking about new financial instruments like derivatives that have turned the industry into a global casino

Danny Schechter, Director:

Derivatives can also be used as insurance, betting that a loan will or won't default before a given date

They became the basis of a big betting system like in a casino

Danny Schechter, Director:

Financial Journalist Max Keiser says just a handful of big financial firms now dominate the industry and the global economy:

Max Keiser, Financial Journalist:

Without a doubt there's JP Morgan, which is in bed with the Fed--into central banking system

Danny Schechter, Director:

Wall Street bets on future values and the performance of practically anything of value

Max Keiser, Financial Journalist:

So you've got Morgan, Goldman Sachs--are the two primary players in this global financialized world

Danny Schechter, Director:

Soon, CEO s, financiers and executives of a small number of investment banks and hedge funds became rich and powerful by controlling specialized high stakes markets

Max Keiser, Financial Journalist:

They are connected to the central banking system, which is the fed, the ECB, the Bank of International Settlements in Switzerland is kind of the central bank of the central banks

And these are the folks that are--their main purpose at this point is to keep interest rates as close to zero as possible--to make it as cheap as possible for people who are borrowing money to speculate, to be able to speculate freely without having to pay for the money that their borrowing to speculate

Danny Schechter, Director:

Even if these financial markets are supposedly open to all, a relatively few traders, investors and asset managers came to structure the markets to increase their own wealth and power

Max Keiser, Financial Journalist:

If they ever make a bad bet then they quickly move to cover their bad bets with austerity programs or some kind of bailout program, or a quantitative easing program

Danny Schechter, Director:

A Swiss study by physicists on the ownership and control of stock exchanges in 48 countries examined 24, 877 stocks and l06,141 shareholding entities

To their amazement, they found that just ten companies were dominating all stock ownership

Here they are:

Danny Schechter, Director:

When we talk about money and Wall St we have to ask this question, where does the money come from that s used in this speculation in our financial markets

This man knows, Barry James Dyke, he s an asset manager and he works with clients so where does it come from? Barry James Dyke, Financial Advisor, Asset Manager:

The money comes from peoples savings, regular old savings, or people s retirement funds which they re saving for retirement

Their savings, just regular old savings

Danny Schechter, Director:

But do the people who put their money into these accounts know how it s being invested or spent? Barry James Dyke, Financial Advisor, Asset Manager:

They don t have a clue

Danny Schechter, Director:

Its only now, as a result of the financial crisis that the public is learning slowly that the self-styled masters of the universe on Wall Street speculated on risky investments that created a crash

Danny Schechter, Director:

Graydon Carter, the editor Vanity Fair wrote:

It can fairly be said that the chain of catastrophic bets made over the past decade by a few hundred bankers may well turn out to be the greatest nonviolent crime against humanity in history

Danny Schechter, Director:

They brought the world s economy to its knees

Lost tens of millions of people their jobs and their homes

And crashed the retirement plan of a generation

And they could drive an estimated 200,000,000 world wide into dire poverty

Danny Schechter, Director:

In 2010, before Occupy Wall Street, labor unions marched to protest Wall Street crimes

(Stand up) Danny Schechter, Director:

On the 29th of April, this is a march on Wall Street, organized by the ALFCIO

They say they've organized 200 protests so far, but you'd never know it in terms of the media coverage

Well, today the media is out, and they are marching because of a theft

Millions of jobs are missing- 11 million jobs, according to the ALFCIO

They want payback

They want Wall Street to pay

They want a new tax on financial transaction

Danny Schechter, Director:

We are trying to recover from a financial crisis that some people say is even worse than the Depression in the 1930s, and yet reforms that have been proposed, very modest reforms, are being fought tooth and nail at the regulatory level by Wall Street firms and financiers

Do you think they have a disproportionate power to influence congress? Rep

Jesse Jackson Jr, (D-Illinois):

There s no doubt about that

Not just the Congress but state legislature as well

Their strength, their power, runs the entire gambit of the American political system

Danny Schechter, Director:

I read that the finance industry, the financial services industry, had hired 28 lobbyists per member of Congress to try to influence their decisions, to try to inform-How, what happens to you when lobbyists come into your office and try to get you to vote their way

How does it work, that game? &

Rep

Jesse Jackson Jr, (D-Illinois):

It's very hard to get that meeting with me

I don t think that they spent a lot of money trying to lobby me

I m kind of clear on my ideology

Clear of my idea of representative government and very clear on the Constitution, but suffice it to say that while my district is competitive, there are many more competitive districts than mine and every member of Congress, to that extent, becomes a prisoner to the election process, to the fundraising process

Danny Schechter, Director:

Sheila Krumbolz of the Center For Responsive Politics says Wall Street's power is well documented:

Sheila Krumholz, Director, Center for Responsive Politics:

Wall St

, the banks, and the financial industry at large is the single largest source of campaign cash in the United States and it has been for years if not decades

It is kind of following the Willie Sutton rule of politics, you go where the money is, thats where the money is

They have, not just political action committees that can pony up maximum amounts to influential members of congress who have jurisdiction over their industry, but also they can pony up past the hat--and pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars just among their partners and vice presidents and executives in their companies

Danny Schechter, Director:

She says this clout will impact the election in 2012 Sheila Krumholz, Director, Center for Responsive Politics:

So they can muster a ton of money and this is also seen as specifically in the presidential race in 2012, where of course Mitt Romney has hailed from the private equity industry, and prior to that Barack Obama had been darling of Wall Street

So Wall St

and banks in particular are an enormously influential part of the US industry

Danny Schechter, Director:

That power is being shown as Wall Street lobbyists try to sabotage financial reforms passed by Congress

Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

Two years after the passage of the legislation and are the regulators doing the good things that Congress told them to do? And the answer to a considerable extent is no

They re way behind on issuing the rules as they re supposed to issue

Where they actually have issued the rules are getting challenged in almost every instance:

in court, by the Chamber of commerce or by financial securities at Round Table or other Wall Street interests

And they re having a tough time with the judiciary that s favorable to big business in maintaining the rules they have issued

Danny Schechter, Director:

So reforms can be passed, but they can also be sabotaged? Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen:

Right, they get multiple bites at the apple

They get a bite in Congress where they ve got enormous power, but at least it s mostly a public fight

And then they go to the regulatory agencies where they also have enormous power, but it s usually below the radar, off the front pages, and they don t even have the public scrutiny

Danny Schechter, Director:

Recently, on a radio show I host, I discussed Wall Street Power and the financial meltdown with Financial journalists Max Keiser and Stacy Herbert as well as Andy Stapanian, an animal rights activist who led a campaign against the company in the business of painful medical tests on puppies

After his group drove their stock price down, the company went broke but then, the government labeled him a financial terrorist and sent him to prison

Danny Schechter, Director:

We began by comparing Wall Street to the Titanic, the unsinkable ship that sank

Max Keiser, Financial Journalist:

If the titanic were the story today, the difference would be that Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan would have heavy bets that would pay off when the ship sinks--and Hank Paulson would be down there widening the gash

Stacy Herbert, Financial Journalist:

It brings me to a new study out just recently, and they looked at hundreds of ship wrecks throughout the past few hundreds of years--and what they found was that the norm is actually for women and children to die more frequently than men, and that the captain usually didn't go down with the ship, they were usually-their survival rate the highest

Max Keiser, Financial Journalist:

These guys--they use derivatives as Warren Buffet calls them "weapons of mass financial destruction" to make situations worse, because their bets that they have on these calamities becoming worse pay off enormously, and we see that in the numbers, in the bonuses--it's reflected

Danny Schechter, Director:

Andy, you were nodding before when Max was speaking about all of this

Is this really true? That THEY RE betting against us, in a sense? Betting against--hoping for bad things to happen? Andy Stepanian, Animal Rights Activist:

I don't think that everyone that works on Wall St

has this mentality, but there is a culture that in place where people have learned to at least accept and justify behavior

Like looking at these investments, betting investments against, you know, things to fail, whether it be a government, whether it be a country, whether it be a company, to fail, and say oh well, I can justify this, you look at it like it s numbers, you don't look at the people behind it, you don't look at the families that suffer, you don't look at the country that suffers as a result

Danny Schechter, Director:

Well, here's what's mind boggling to me:

you are presenting a picture of intentionality, that people did things to further their own interest--they knew what they were doing, it was calculated and yet in most of the media, it seems as if it is presented as some sort of mistake, as miscalculation, "gee, we wanted housing to go up but it went down

You can't blame us, everybody was doing it, therefore nobody was doing it, therefore, nobody can be prosecuted

" Max Keiser, Financial Journalist:

Well, let's assume that there was intention

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Some would argue that it's a good thing--to have people who are parasites in an economy, cause parasites are useful

I have parasites in my intestines, they perform a useful function

The problem is the parasites don't run my heart, lungs, and brain

In America, the parasites write the regulatory framework that's supposed to be governing them so the parasites are on their show

Andy Stepanian, Animal Rights Activist:

Is Wall Street affecting, you know, Capitalist? Is Wall Street affecting our policy making?, Well they re becoming our policy makers

At least for a short period of time and then returning back to the banks

Danny Schechter, Director:

So the revolving door kind of thing? Andy Stepanian, Animal Rights Activist:

Essentially, I mean they re in and out of the Bush administration, the Obama administration, different positions within the cabinet that are governing finance are individuals that are former CEOs of banks or they might go back to being an honorary chair on the board of directors

It s this incestuous relationship between Wall Street and policy makers

Danny Schechter, Director:

Sounds so corrupt

Stacy Herbert, Financial Analyst:

Danny, you asked who runs America and I say it s ignorance

And, you know, Thomas Jefferson warned of this and that we needed a media who would inform the population otherwise we would lose our democracy

So this ignorance that is being forced upon you, criminalizing knowledge

Danny Schechter, Director:

This is something that I was startled by when NASDAQ opened up on in Times Square

A big studio out front with a big window

And then I said, I d love to tour the exchange

And this was the time that Bernie Madoff was running NASDAQ

And they said you can t tour the exchange, there is no exchange

It looks like an exchange

There s a building that says NASDAQ, but the actual operations are computers

Max Keiser, Financial Journalist:

Algorithmic trading goes well beyond that as you re alluding to

It s not about individuals who are taking any risks personally to a make a market as part of a capitalist system

These are computers that have virtually unlimited credit because the cost of credit is now zero and the ability for a bank like J

P

Morgan with a ninety trillion dollar balance unit of derivatives, they can lend a trillion dollars to a computer program to make a bet

If the bet doesn't work, then they get a federal bailout

If the bet works, then they get a bonus

So it s heads they win, tails we lose

And this has been going on now for a number of years, but it has gotten shockingly more disproportionate and asymmetric

Danny Schechter, Director:

This shift towards super fast computers is just another example of the deeper shift we have seen in power as finance in effect takes over, with politicians courting Wall Street at global conferences and in private meetings as George Soros explains:

G

Soros 15:

43:

It is actually symptomatic of the age because you have presidents and prime ministers courting the financiers and the industrialists

So, it does show a shift in the relative power, but I don t want to convey

See I don t believe that business can in anyway replace the power of the state because it s a different kind of power

The sovereignty is still in the hands of the state

That hasn t changed

Danny Schechter, Director:

We ll give the last word to a scholar with a longer view, American historian Eric Foner

Eric Foner, American Historian, Columbia University:

I think what we face is a serious democracy deficit

Not only in the United States, but in many other countries as well

I'm not quite ready to say a plutocracy determines everything that happens in the United States, but I think the democracy deficit arises from the fact that fundamental issues are now just off limits from democracy

It doesn't matter who is elected

The basic issues about finance, about deindustrialization, things like that, or about globalization, about the loss of power of ordinary people over their own lives, that s not open to discussion

I don't care if it's Democrat, Republican, Obama, Romney

That s not part of what their debate is

Their debate is at the margins so that the fundamental issues facing ordinary people are not subject to democratic consideration

Government does not represent the ordinary people even though people elect the government, the government does not respond at all to the needs and aspirations of ordinary people

Danny Schechter, Director:

In this series, we have investigated Who Rules America examining the history of deep conflicts in this country going back to the American Revolution

We have dissected the power of the military, corporations, the media and Wall Street

We have shown that these powerful forces often undermine democracy rather than strengthen it

Danny Schechter, Director:

There is a battle underway for the soul of America, for Who Rules America that has as put these deeper issues on the agenda:

The question:

is a fundamental transformation possible or will special interests and the wealthiest Americans continue to dominate in a country that says "It's the most dynamic democracy on earth

" (Stand up) Danny Schechter, Director:

The belief in our democracy is almost an article of religious faith, even though there is a separation of church and state

Perhaps that's why the views you've heard in this series are rejected by the establishment, rejected by academia, rejected by the press

They believe only the people have power if anyone does, but opinion leaders don't look into it

They don't focus on interest, they focus on ideologies, on personalities, not institutions

The idea of a power elite is an anathema to them because, if people believe it, that might spur dissatisfaction and dissent

In the age of the internet and global television, you can t stop people from being exposed to counter- narratives to official myths

These issues are debatable of course, but most political coverage doesn't debate other ways of looking at the world

It relies on the usual pundits recycling conventional wisdom

They don't ask, "Who Rules America?" Danny Schechter, Director:

Thank you for watching! Your thoughts are welcome to Press TV and dissector@mediachanel.

   

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