This episode aired on April 5, 2012.
You'd think after such a calamitous economic fall, there'd be a strong consensus on reinforcing the protections that keep us out of harm's way. But in some powerful corners, the opposite is happening. Business and political forces, including hordes of lobbyists, are working hard to diminish or destroy these protections. One of the biggest bull's-eyes is on the Volcker Rule, a section of the Dodd-Frank Act that aims to keep the banks in which you deposit your money from gambling it on their own -- sometimes risky -- investments.
Bill talks with the namesake of the Volcker Rule -- Paul Volcker, who served two terms as Chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1979-1987 and formerly headed President Obama's Economic Recovery Advisory Board.
Volcker contends the rule aims to curb conflicts of interest between bankers and their customers. He suggests that former investment companies like Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which sought banking licenses during the economic crisis in order to access federal protection against failing, should now turn in those licenses if they want to do speculative trading.
"You shouldn't run a financial system on the expectation of government support. We're supposed to be a free enterprise system," Volcker tells Moyers. "The problem of course is once they get rescued, does that lead to the conclusion they'll get rescued in the future?"
If all that disillusions you about government, know you aren't entirely powerless to create change. So says Bill's second guest, Carne Ross. Once the rising star of British diplomacy and now a global activist, Ross' book The Leaderless Revolution outlines ways to create alternative systems of governance and commerce.
"We have to accept that government is no longer fixing things for us. Whoever's in charge, whichever bunch of politicians has taken over government, they will not provide the answer," Ross tells Moyers. "We have to instead take on the burden ourselves. That is a fundamental cultural change, and I think it requires a real examination of our role in political circumstances."
Ross, who resigned his British diplomatic role in objection to his government's positions during the Iraq War, shares nine crucial principles for effective citizen action. He also describes his work with the Occupy movement to devise an alternative banking system - an "Occupy Bank" - more aligned with the public interest.
Moyers concludes the broadcast with an essay on what several American cities are doing to restructure big banks from the bottom up.
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Bill Moyers hosts a weekly hour of compelling conversation about the state of American democracy, featuring a range of scholars, activists, scientists, and newsmakers.