Moyers on the Failing Democrats, Corporate Money & Health Care Reform

Moyers on the Failing Democrats, Corporate Money & Health Care Reform August 31, 2009

These words already appeared in Michael Iafrate’s Vox Nova video post of the Bill Moyers-Bill Maher interview a day or so ago. They are making their rounds in printed form at numerous places today, including Salon and dotCommonweal.  I think that they so cut to the chase and are on the mark that they bear repeating in print, here and now:

MOYERS:  I don’t think the problem is the Republicans . . . .The problem is the Democratic Party.  This is a party that has told its progressives — who are the most outspoken champions of health care reform — to sit down and shut up.  That’s what Rahm Emanuel, the Chief of Staff at the White House, in effect told progressives who stood up as a unit in Congress and said: “no public insurance option, no health care reform.”

And I think the reason for that is — in the time since I was there, 40 years ago, the Democratic Part has become like the Republican Party, deeply influenced by corporate money.  I think Rahm Emanuel, who is a clever politician, understands that the money for Obama’s re-election will come from the health care industry, from the drug industry, from Wall Street.  And so he’s a corporate Democrat who is determined that there won’t be something in this legislation that will turn off these interests. . . .

Money in politics — you’ve had in the last 30 years, money has flooded politics . .. the Supreme Court saying “money is free speech.”  It goes back to the efforts in the 19th Century to give corporations the right of personhood — so if you as a citizen have the right to donate to campaigns, then so do corporations.  Money has flowed in such a flood into both parties that the Democratic Party gets a lot of its support from the very interests that — when the Republicans are in power — financially support the Republicans.   

You really have essentially — except for the progressives on the left of the Democratic Party – you really have two corporate parties who in their own way and their own time are serving the interests of basically a narrow set of economic interests in the country — who, as Glenn Greenwald, who is a great analyst and journalist, wrote just this week:  these narrow interests seem to win, determine the outcomes, no matter how many Democrats are elected, no matter who has their hands on the levers of powers, these narrow interests determine the outcomes in Washington, even when they have to run roughshod over the interests of ordinary Americans.  I’m sad to say that has happened to the Democratic Party.

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  • Matt Talbot

    He’s right, MM. I still have some hopes that small-dollar donations raised from web appeals may eventually begin to convince pols that there are other methods to raise re-election money, but it may take public financing to turn the tide for good.

  • Matt Talbot

    He’s right, MM. I still have some hopes that small-dollar donations raised from web appeals may eventually begin to convince pols that there are other methods to raise re-election money, but it may take public financing to turn the tide for good.

  • Matt Talbot

    oops – should have been “Mark”

  • Matt Talbot

    oops – should have been “Mark”

  • Gerald A. Naus

    Well, it is an American party. How could it not be a wholly owned subsidiary of corporate America ? Granted, they’re still better than the Republican party, who’s degenerated into a bizarre crew of lunatics, somewhere between lynch party, boot camp and mega church. Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney and George Bush. Sweet.

    It’s a nice gig, this de-facto two party system. You know it’ll be your turn at the trough again soon enough.

    Nothing can ever be done with a cool head in this country, it’s the famous “paranoid style in American politics.” From ‘death panels’ to the bizarre role abortion plays in politics down to evolution. Well, America fights the battles of the 19th century…still.

    Btw, if you speak German, I recommend a hilarious, acerbic older book on American history by the late German satirist Joachim Fernau – “Halleluja: Eine Geschichte Amerikas.” The audible/iTunes version is excellent, too.

  • Gerald A. Naus

    German system: In 2006, the political parties received about 30 percent of their income from the government, about 28 percent from membership dues, an additional 12 percent in mandatory contributions from elected and appointed officials, 10 percent from individual donations, and 3.5 percent from corporate donations.

    Due to the low threshold for funding eligibility, minor parties have benefitted from public funding. Whereas they could not expect to get many donations, the public funds allow them to function. Among all the larger parties, public funds make up a similar percentage of their overall receipts. There are, however, systemic differences in the funds received from other sources. The conservative parties are more likely to obtain corporate donations, whereas the Socialist Party generates a sizeable income from party-owned commercial endeavors, particularly newspapers and other media enterprises

  • Pinky

    So, Moyers thinks that there are good Democrats, bad Democrats, and bad Republicans. And the middle group was his recent discovery. He can’t conceive of a Republican person with decent motives. That’s troubling.

  • Kurt

    “Bad” is your word.

    Both business and workers should be part of the political process. It is probably best that we not be like some European countries that have one party rigidly and exclusively representing business and another party rigidly and exclusively representing workers. But balance is needed. The virtue of business having a legitimate voice in policy and legislation has become the vice of business having an excessive voice.

  • Pinky

    Kurt, Bill Moyers certainly didn’t mean that “two corporate parties…serving the interests of basically a narrow set of economic interests” is a good thing. I think it’s fair to use the word “bad”. The only people he excludes from that formula are found on the left of the Democratic Party. I find that to be rude.

  • Kurt

    Pinky,

    You have a charming over-sensitivity.

  • Matt

    The idea that corporate money is a new thing in the Democratic party is rather a dim idea. The democrats have always had a slice of corporate support as well as wealthy individuals. The continuing public stereotype that only the Republicans benefit from big money is so outrageously transparent to the point that those who promote it must be catorized as liars and those who tolerate it must be catorized as blind.

    The root of the imbalance in these matters is the great monopolization of labor unions. The decision that all labor would be united in one giant national organization, and all labor would thus support one party, one platform, one slate, is the root of the imbalance. There is no logical reason why this should be so. There is no good reason why unions who have members making average salaries of 6 figures get lumped in with unions for hotel maids. There is further no good reason why must sectors of labor contain only one major union instead of a variety of different unions.

    In any case, the system would work better if both parties had input from labor and business at both the organizational and individual levels. As is, the only labor support for the Republicans is from increasing number of workers who break with the union bosses and support Republicans individually. Further, there is virtually nothing the Republic party could do to change this. It is not particularly the fault of the unions or the Republicans, it simply IS at this point. Neither has the ability to change it independently.

    For my part I would take a trust busting approach to the Republican Party at the national level, the Democratic Party at the national level, and the AFL-CIO, and perhaps a few other groups and organizations that have formed monopolies on various types of power, such as certain major industry lobies.

  • Kurt

    Matt,

    Excellent topic.

    Yes, we have one party corporate funded and another party funded from a mix of corporate and labor money.

    I want to get to your core point, but first correct a few errors. You write “There is no good reason why unions who have members making average salaries of 6 figures get lumped in with unions for hotel maids.”

    I think that rarely is the case. We have the Air Line Pilots Association and we have the Hotel & Restaurant Workers Union. They are separate unions and make autonomous political decisions. And yes, ALPA is a lot more supportive of Republican candidates.

    The AFL-CIO is not a union, but a federation of unions. The political decisions are made by the individual unions.

    I think the endorsements most unions make are pretty fair in that they reflect candidates who support a particular union’s legislative positions as voted at their International Convention.

    But I totally agree that the system would work better if both parties had input from labor and business at both the organizational and individual levels.

    Personally, I would not mind seeing a system that exists in some European countries where political parties run slates of candidates in union elections. The Republican Party (as the Dems) certainly has hordes of experienced campaign operatives with the very skills useful to putting on a union election campaign. And, of course, unions are the only private organizations that by federal law have to be democratic — enforceable in court.

    It would be great for the GOP if their operatives would actually go into the plant, find workers who are Republican, help them run for union office, and, in turn, once elected, they would form a labor caucus within the GOP.

  • Gabriel Austin

    Interestingly enough, Otto Belmont [Belmont Raceway], J.P. Morgan and other typical “Republican” millionaires were among the founders of the modern Democratic Party.

    Then there was the Republican Teddy Roosevelt who attacked the big corporations.

    This is getting confusing. I’m going to lie down.