PROGRESSIVES PICK UP THE PIECES
Financial journalist Gretchen Morgenson discusses banks and the corruption of American capitalism.
It's the largest corporate fine in American history - $13 billion. That's the amount JP Morgan Chase will reportedly pay to settle civil charges around its alleged manipulation of mortgage securities Ì¶ a series of shady business deals that five years ago crippled homeowners and helped trigger the meltdown that threatened the world's economy. And that's just the tip of a REALLY big iceberg. There are reports that Chase will soon make another settlement Ì¶ $6 billion worth - with institutional investors, and the bank is under investigation for possible involvement in everything from credit card fraud and Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme to criminally manipulating energy markets, money laundering and bribing Chinese officials with jobs for their kids. What does that tell us about the corruption of American capitalism? This week on Moyers & Company (check local listings) Bill Moyers poses that question to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Gretchen Morgenson. She has been called "the most important financial journalist of her generation" by The Nation for her tough business reporting. In her "Fair Game" column for The New York Times she shares her hard-won knowledge and experience to explain to the rest of us the corporate hustle of Wall Street. Her most recent book, written with Joshua Rosner, is Reckless Endangerment: How Outsized Ambition, Greed and Corruption Led to Economic Armageddon. Bill also speaks to historian and author Peter Dreier who sees the current political crisis as fraught with possibility for progressives in America Ì¶ and shares the reasons he continues to be optimistic, including dynamic grass roots initiatives around the country and, believe it or not, the radical politics of Dr. Seuss, the late children's book author and illustrator whose real name was Theodor Geisel (Seuss was his middle name). In whimsical books like Yertle the Turtle and Green Eggs and Ham, the good "doctor" passed along some simple but powerful political philosophy. "The message that Dr. Seuss is sending in his books to young people is to stand up to arbitrary authority and take back your own life and Ì¶ be a fighter for justice and for your own integrity," Dreier says. "I think that Dr. Seuss would be very pleased with a lot of the movements today because these are people standing up to authority and big power and trying to take the country back. Americans are beginning to feel like their voices can now be heard Ì¶ that's what's happening all over the country. And that's why I'm optimistic Ì¶ not because I get up in the morning with rose colored glasses. Because I really do think that we're at this transformational moment in our history." Dreier teaches at Occidental College in Los Angeles, where he carries on the progressive spirit of the college as a distinguished professor of politics and chair of the school's Urban and Environmental Policy department. He's also chair of the Cry Wolf Project, a non-profit that identifies and exposes misleading rhetoric about the economy and government. His most recent book is The 100 Greatest Americans of the 20th Century: A Social Justice Hall of Fame.