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Dec. 20 2009 - 12:12 pm | 445 views | 4 recommendations | 38 comments

Re: Bill Moyers Journal

When President Barack Obama took office in January 2009, he had no shortage of challenges to address: an economy on the verge of complete meltdown, two wars, and a health care system so broken that 44,000 people a year die for lack of coverage in the wealthiest country in the world.

via Bill Moyers Journal . Robert Kuttner and Matt Taibbi | PBS.

I’ve admired Bill Moyers since I was very young and was very honored to be on his show, The Bill Moyers Journal, this past week.

I was joined on the show by the well-known economist Robert Kuttner, who I was also pleased to meet for the first time. The transcript is up on the show’s site, and the video is up there as well.

It will be a very sad thing when Bill Moyers retires. TV needs more people like him.

UPDATE: This has nothing to do with Moyers, but I have some housekeeping on one issue. Please, could the shareholders of the CMKX diamond company take note — I am not going to be able to cover that story. It’s not that I’m not sympathetic, it’s just that I have other obligations. I don’t know where it’s coming from in the last day or two, but I’m suddenly being deluged with letters from you folks, and I can’t answer all of them.


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  1. collapse expand

    I don’t wanna blow smoke up your ass here, Matt, but it’s nice to see two of the few remaining real journalists left in this country sharing the stage. Gives me some small degree of hope.

    I’d like to see Moyers pass the torch to you, but of course, your styles are a bit different. I was just reading the eXile book, and it cracks me up to see the esteemed Bill Moyers interviewing the mind behind “Death Porn”!

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    Matt –I enjoyed seeing you on the Bill Moyers show last friday. I thought your answers were right on –civil in tone but unremittingly (and rightly) critical of the failures and inadequacies of Obama’s policies. Mr. Kuttner, on the other hand, was a disappointment: his refusal to condemn the current hopelessly muddleheaded health care legislation, on the grounds that a relatively liberal president could not afford to lose another big ticket initiative, seemed intellectually disengenuous and morally squishy. Mr. Moyers, for his part, was the usual thoughful and perceptive host.

    Keep up the good fight, Matt.

  3. collapse expand

    Thanks for doing his show, it was very interesting. I downloaded it over here and watched it as soon as it came online. It doesn’t really mean much to say so, but I echo your sentiments completely. Growing up in Texas I was raised on him from his Joseph Campbell series and beyond and I’ve really admired him ever since. I often, especially since the GOP appointees forced him out under Tomlinson temporarily, think about his eventual disappearance from public life and how it’s one of the few times I’ll mourn the disappearance of a public figure. What a body of work to point to from such a humble background.

    On a side note, I enjoyed your appearance and Kuttner’s. I agreed with your point of view more than Kuttner’s, but it was nice to see two people discuss the topic rationally and without hashing over all the usual nonsense talking points. So, you know, thanks for not dropping acid and putting on a viking helmet beforehand.

  4. collapse expand

    I thought you did pretty well on Bill Moyers. As for that other guy, Robert Kuttner, I thought he personified everything that is wrong with liberal Democrats. It’s people like him that give “liberals” a bad name. His intellectual BS is an easy target for the Sarah Palin’s of the world. His goal in life seems to be to prop up the Democratic Party.

    He and his magazine, American Prospect, are so obviously pro-Establishment. Notice how he tried to complicate rather than simplify the issues. His mask completely fell off when he said that he would vote for the Senate health care bill. He doesn’t care about the American people. He just cares about keeping the Democratic party in power.

    Screw the Democrats! What difference does it make if they won’t use their political power to challenge the Big Corporations. If you look at American Prospect’s webpage, you can see that they are also funded by Big Business. That’s what’s wrong with American politics. It is all a battle for the backing of Big Business.

    C’mon Matt! Are you really going to let that Robert Kuttner guy off easy? He talks about “corporate Democrats” in Congress, but he is a “corporate Democrat” himself. Tell us what you really think about this slimy toad.

    And as for Obama, I think the title of your last article sums it up perfectly – “Obama’s Big Sellout” . Here are my thoughts on Obama just after the election.

    Ralph Nader famously asked just after the elections whether Obama would be an Uncle Sam for the American People or an Uncle Tom for the Big Corporations? I would add to that list of famous uncles another one – Uncle Joe as in Joseph Stalin.

    Anyone that still believes that Obama represents change is consciously (or unconsciously) ignoring the facts. Just look at the appointments he has made so far and the rumored appointments to come, and it should be obvious that Nader got it right. Obama represents the Big Corporations, not the Average Citizen.

    Which brings us back to the 3 Uncles – Sam, Tom and Joe. It is the image of Uncle Joe that most concerns me. The iconic “man of the people” who is supposed to be representing the average citizen, when really he is representing the powerful Elite. There is a danger of creating a cult of personality around Obama. It truly disturbs me that people will keep waiting for Uncle Barack to fix things at the same time that things are falling apart.

    Meanwhile, people like Robert Kuttner tell us to keep waiting. It’s the same thing they told the slaves on the plantation. “Keep waitin’ for that pie in the sky, by and by.”

  5. collapse expand

    In case anyone was wondering, the video is also available. You know, in case you’re not good at faking Matt’s voice in your head while reading a transcript: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/12182009/watch.html

  6. collapse expand

    The only sad thing about Moyers is that he’s publicly funded. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing… If he was a centrist.

  7. collapse expand

    Good job on the Bill Moyers show. But could you please please do a series that focuses more directly on how Wall Street ate Main Street industrial companies.
    People are not really aware of how for 30 years, since the Reagen Administration “Private Equity” partnerships borrowed money from pension funds and insurance companies to buy control of industrial companies, carve them up, loot them of their operating reserves of their R&D budgets and force them to take out loans that are also disbursed to the “private equity” partners. In associated actions these same actors sent money to China to develop factories where they could source manufacturing of products

  8. collapse expand

    Dear Matt,
    You were great on Bill Moyers show. Just to let you know I am on medicare. It is not a free ride. The premium for Medicare A & B just this month increased from $96.00 to $124.00 starting January 2010. My Humana part D (drug plan) advantage went from $19.00 to $48.00 and together I am paying $172.00 a month starting in January 2010. I only get $575.00 per month Social Security and after the medicare is deducted I am left with $403.00. The Medicare A & B is the same for everyone, $96.00 per mo. It is an option to take part D. Part D pays for medicine. I am a diabetic and use insulin and it costs about $250.00 when I run out of coverage and I did in November. The people who cannot afford insurance will not be able to pay for the preiums like I am trying to pay. The amount I am paying is just for me alone. My husband pays the same amount. No one is mentioning the large increase in Medicare in just one year. That is almost a 25% increase. We did not recieve a cost of living increase this year. Please get the word out as we are already being taxed. People think we get this free. If they can’t afford health insurance for there families a program like Medicare will not finicially be affordable. I have given you alot of personal information I hope you will check with others and I hope this can be information that you can use and will use to explain to your readers the real truth. Keep up the good work. Mary

  9. collapse expand

    “Yeah. I mean, obviously, it’s too early to completely abandon hope that (Obama’s) going to turn things around. But I think that’s a belief that’s not really based on evidence…You’re…basically relying upon the impression that he gives as a kind, decent, warm-hearted intellectual guy…(but)It’s really not anything that’s actually concretely happened that would give you reason to think that.”

    Matt, that takes guts and integrity to say what you just did – i.e., that what Obama says and what he does are not the same thing. (In my neck of the woods, it’s calling ‘lying’.) If I repeated what you said to my conservative friends, it would be no big deal because I would be preaching to the choir. But it takes a hell of a lot more courage for a liberal like yourself to not only admit this truth but also speak it to other liberals who have totally bought into the Obama myth. You are to be congratulated. There are damned few journalists worth admiring today – but you, sir, are definitely one of them.

  10. collapse expand

    I think it’s important to point out that it’s not just progressive transformative presidencies that have larger social movements that have to be appeased to some extent. Reagan had the fiscal conservatives (and to a lesser extent the social conservatives), and W. Bush had the social conservatives (and to a lesser extent the fiscal conservatives) there to keep pushing them more in line with their view of policy.

    Otherwise, a great interview.

  11. collapse expand

    I was not aware of Robert Kuttner or American Prospect before your interview on Bill Moyer’s Journal. I’ve been missing out since he’s been fighting the good progressive fight for decades. I hope he gets more visibility in the mainstream media going forward.

    I particularly like his comments about how radical it is for non corporate and progressive Democrats to articulate and champion the needs of ordinary people. Silly me thought they were the majority of Democrats, not a minority within the party.

    Your, Taibbi, comments in the Moyer’s interview were insightful and enlightening as usual.

  12. collapse expand

    That was a terrific interview. Moyers has the ability to ask good, pertinent follow-up questions, which seems to be a lost art among many journalists. I did like Kuttner’s apt comment: “structural undertow that big money represents in this country” You were right in there with the points we’ve been reading over the past year, although I hadn’t heard about people staying in their homes even as they were undergoing foreclosure.

    It’s unfortunate that this appeared on public tv, but that is the venue for Bill Moyers. The tv audience at large doesn’t tune into PBS; they go to cable news programs if they watch news at all. If this interview could go viral on the internet that would be a plus.

  13. collapse expand

    “Bill Moyers Journal” should be required viewing for anyone that is interested in watching real, true journalism at work. Sadly show like his are a dying breed being taken over by the likes of Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly spewing agenda-driven, right-wing propaganda.
    Keep up the great work Matt.

  14. collapse expand

    I am a retired cardiac surgeon (6 yrs at Mayo, 36 yrs in the Bronx, working visits to 20 countries) totally convinced that the health care legislation will basically fail the American people. I was delighted to hear Matt Taibbi’s views on the Moyers show. We are the only modern industrial nation that does not regard universal coverage as a moral imperative. Our system is the most complex and most expensive by far. Taking a failed syetem, letting lobbyists work it over and then tinkering with it guarantees disaster. What we should do is run ascientific medical Trial. Take the best from the rest of the world and run a trial of two districts of a million people each: one district as now and one with the best ideas from the rest of the world. T a medical scientist thisis the only way to get at the answer. Unfortunately American exceptionalism is as prevalent among leftwingers as it is among right wing warmongers andthenotion oflearningfrom therestof the world is foreign to us. Please give me guidance on how to promote this idea.How can I send it to Matt? Rwmfglycar@aol.com Tel 914 309 5862

  15. collapse expand

    Here’s a good Olbermann special comment on the bill: (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3036677/vp/34455431#34455431)

    I’ll ad that when Sen. Reid sent out his victory email regarding health care, I replied with and oh please and that Democrats must have wanted a health care bill in the worst way, because that’s what we now have.

    I’ll add here that – at best – this bill is the “don’t ask/don’t tell” of health care reform.

    KO may be onto something. Nobody should buy into this new plan. Even though I plan to write at least Harkin and Grassley (Iowans: could this (http://roxanneforiowa.com/page/content/about) be an antidote?), I’m sure it will do no good. Having an entire population facing a fine for not buying a terrible policy is a much, much better strategy.

  16. collapse expand

    LIke you I have admired Bill Moyers since I was very young. I am now past the half-century mark and I still adore and learn from him.

    I couldn’t believe it when I read he was going to retire. He can’t..WE NEED HIM!

    You were pretty good on the show too Matt. ;)

  17. collapse expand

    You did a great job Matt. Big thanks to you and Bill Moyers Journal for continuing to fight the good fight.

  18. collapse expand

    I really appreciated your quote with regards to the potential fallout if the Dems don’t pass a health care bill:

    But couldn’t that defeat turn into- that crushing defeat, couldn’t that be good for the Democrats? Couldn’t it teach them a lesson that, you know, maybe they have to pursue a different course in the future?

    I’m tired of people arguing that we have to accept these things that are antithetical to American ideals in order to “win”.

    We must give up our freedoms to defeat the terrorists.

    We must accept wild giveaways to the medical-industrial complex to get health care reform.

    We must gut real economic reform so we can maintain contributions and continue to win elections.

    If the Democrats have to become Republicans to win, then what is the point? I agree that maybe they need a couple crushing defeats to push them onto a course that better serves their constituents.

  19. collapse expand

    Sadly, the real fight for health reform isn’t over health reform, its over public financing of elections. Only if that happens do Americans have a chance at taking back their democratic political system.

  20. collapse expand

    It will indeed be a sad day when the few voices of honest dissent like Moyers (and hell let’s just throw in Goodman) in broadcast journalism retire.

    One question and one comment: First, since you didn’t have a chance to respond, I wonder what you thought of Kuttner’s assertion that there are 40 “good” Democrats in the Senate and 200 “good” Dems in the House. You’ve spent enough time with these guys I’m sure, what would your tally be?

    My comment is with respect to the point your brought up about the divided rationale behind Obama’s cabinet decisions: naivete v. a simple quid pro quo. For me, this perfectly reflects the progressive divide of apologists v. activists. Because it’s somewhat more forgivable when you see Obama as having taken a road of misguided strategy, as opposed to facing the harsh reality that he is exactly what his policy decisions would indicate: a neo-liberal, third-way Democrat exactly out of the Clinton mold.

    I really am sympathetic to the apologist crowd, although I never counted myself among them. It’s a difficult pill to swallow that this charismatic, undeniably likable, symbol of progress is not himself progressive. Maybe this Health Care Bill is the proverbial straw to break the camel’s back, but I think it is absolutely fundamental for the movement to accept that to support the progressive cause is to oppose the Obama administration. That is if they have any intention of being taken seriously.

  21. collapse expand

    I thought the show was excellent and offered some deep insights to what’s taken place to this point.

    A suggestion, if I may: Have you considered doing an in-depth piece on the relationship between the President and Rahm Emanuel,how they became acquainted, Emanuel’s influence? I’d be very interested to learn how Emanuel came to have so much influence. He seems to be Rove’s flip-side, but without the charm.

    • collapse expand

      I too would like to see a story on the history of the relationship between President Obama and Rahm Emanuel.

      I do agree that Rahm is the flip side of Rove but do not agree that Rove had any charm.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        “I do agree that Rahm is the flip side of Rove but do not agree that Rove had any charm.”

        Much like Rove, Rahm Emmanuel has all the “charm” of a Pit Viper.

        Obama has lot’s of charm. But deep down he’s another Rahm Emmanuel. Cold and calculating.

        Kuttner’s “Pollyanna” takes on Obama in that interview were laughable. Sorry Robert, but if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        The ‘charm’ reference was a bit of sarcasm. And a dig at Rahm.

        Someone should design and market a Sarcasm Font. It would make posting in online forums so much easier.

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  22. collapse expand


    As always you do a great job of dissecting political machinations. I enjoyed watching you stand of for middle class Americans by pointing out just a very few of the glaring issues with the Senate healthcare bill. It is not something a true progressive, such as myself, can support. Mandating people to pay premiums without a strong public option is an absolute disaster for working middle class Americans.

    The insurance companies will be pushing rate increases all the way up to 2014. 80% of uninsured Texans, the state where I live, are working full time jobs. They do not have insurance because they cannot afford the premiums now. What on earth makes this administration think that these conditions will change, especially considering our current economic climate.

    This bill is a complete and utter sham designed to increase big Pharma and the insurance industries bottom line. Thanks for sticking to your principles and stating the obvious about this bill. Anyone who reads it, even just the summary, would know that it will not help them in the future.

    Keep up the good work of keeping us informed. I always look forward to your articles in the Rolling Stone as well as your posts here on TrueSlant.

  23. collapse expand

    what a great interview and interesting discussion.
    i love PBS.

  24. collapse expand

    I’ll add my voice to the others: Excellent job, Matt. Great program.

  25. collapse expand

    I thought the Washington Journal interview was THE most unbiased and honest comments I’ve heard so far regarding the issues at hand. I’m sick and tired of mainstream SPIN! Kudos to Bill, Matt, and Robert. I’d like to see this administration of ‘change’ do something also and follow more journalism like yours.

  26. collapse expand

    Interesting, thoughtful, moving segment. You and Kuttler are actually an effective pair.

    My take–I love Kuttler but I don’t think that the he has a sense of the backlash that will come from the mandate to support for-profit health care companies. It’s not the same as a Medicare-for-All tax; people won’t see it the same way. Consider young, middle-income parents who suddenly might have to fork over 15% of their pre-tax income for insurance, knowing that those premiums will most likely support big salaries and older people’s health care: it won’t seem fair, and it will create life-long Republicans who will feel motivated to vote.

    Against this, pro-health bill advocates will point to the millions of uninsured who will now be insured as new potential Democrats; after all, they’ll have something to lose. Maybe, maybe not: many of them don’t have insurance because they can’t pay for it.

    An extension of Medicare to over 55 would have been a simpler approach–much–and good enough for now. I can’t understand why it was necessary for such an overshoot.

  27. collapse expand

    great article and posts over the past couple of weeks…can’t help but think that between you, greenwald, and hamsher, there’s been a lot of “talk” about the split between progressives, “purists”, and others against centrist, corporatist, blue-dog democrats and republicans…It seems to me, that for the first time in a VERY long while, this health care division between progressives and democentrists could be the foreshadowing of trouble to come? IMO, the status quo cannot hold…I think we might be seeing an end to the coalition Bill Clinton tried so hard to put into place.

  28. collapse expand

    Well Matt what can someone who was ripped off in 2002 by Stanford niversity connected Endovasc ‘biotech’penny stock pump and dump and NTU founder James Dale Davidson and D.C. banker David P Summers and Israeli money lauderers the Grin brothers of Israel(that forbes.con erroneously claim are Ukrainain and not Israelis)were all a part of as well as probably CIA through Bellador Group boiler room in Kuala Lumpur ?

    First you have shown yourself to be a mark or
    sucker for their ‘we were naked shorted’ lie never once even considering or caring that Bud Burrell who continues to lie about me and threaten my life from ‘we were naked shorted’
    scam website thesanitycheck.con is involved as well as Mark Faulk,et.al. If any American soldiers were indeed victims of CMKX Diamonds that WAS THE FAULT OF THE VERY CRIMINAL MONEY LAUNDERERS WHO ARE EMAILING YOU TO CONTINUE YOUR UNFOUNDED CLAIMS ABOUT SO CALLED ‘NAKED SHORT SELLING’.
    Please don’t and just say nothing more about the subject because you didn’t and don’t know what you were talking about from the get go.
    You can still see on the SEC.GOV website the lies of the SEC and ex Chair Christopher Cox himself that Fannnie Mae and Freddie Mac and even your beloved Goldman Sachs were victims of ‘naked short selling’.
    Someone should investigate ands expose the lie that was and is the ‘naked shorting’ claim but you are obviously not the one to do it.You probnably still think Patrick Byrne’s pump and dump money laundering op Overstock.con was ‘naked shorted’ and you probably berlieve it was a ‘Sith Lord’.Ha.
    Investigate James Dale Davidson’s,David P Summers,Patrick Byrne’s,Mark Faulk’s,Bud Burrell’s(who probably is part of the faux christians who emailed you in chain and who Byrne pays to threaten me)and David Patch’s role in foistering fraudulent ‘naked shorting’
    claims to cover up their SEC and U.S. government protected stock fraud and money laundering and money laundering ops.That will lead you to realize Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were used by government insidersd to dump those shares and take American investors money offshore just like Enron that ex SEC Chair Chris Cox’s Latham Watkins law firm represented.Even James Dale Davidson’s National Taxpayers Union colleague Steve Forbes has lied about and spread the rumor lie that stocks were ‘naked shorted’.Why ? And why is their NTU office conventirntly located in Alexandria,Virginia near SEC headquarters and they have never been busted for all their penny stock frauds out of that office for all these years ?

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    I'm a political reporter for Rolling Stone magazine, a sports columnist for Men's Journal, and I also write books for a Random House imprint called Spiegel and Grau.

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