tv Tavis Smiley WHUT September 30, 2009 7:00pm-7:30pm EDT
tavis: good evening from los angeles. i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with oscar-winning filmmaker michael moore. he takes a critical look at capitalism in america. "capitalism: a love story" opens in theaters around the country on october 2. we're glad you could join us. michael moore coming up right now. >> there are so many things that wal-mart is looking forward to doing, like helping people live
better, but mostly we're looking forward to helping build stronger communities and relationships because with your help, the best is yet to come. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. tavis and nationwide insurance working to improve financial literacy and the economic empowerment that comes with it. ♪ nationwide is on your side ♪ >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: always pleased to welcome michael moore to this program. he has had some of the most indelible films of our generation.
"roger & me," "fahrenheit 9/11" and "sicko." his latest is "capitalism: a love story." here are some scenes from "capitalism: a love story." >> by spending just a few million dollars to buy congress, wall street was given billions. >> the motion is adopted. >> the film director is filming me right now. >> how did this collapse happen? >> i got home friday. everything was fine. i called back after my plane landed in indiana and all of a sudden we soo this crisis on our hands. >> there has to be a rebellion between the people who have nothing and the people who have it all. >> everything was being handled by the secretary. this is an intelligence operation. >> where is our money? >> i don't know. tavis: ouch.
let's jump right into it. what is the price we pay for our love of capitalism? >> the price we pay is that we now live in a country where there is a foreclosure filing once every 7.5 seconds. tavis: seconds? >> seconds. one out of every eight homes in this country now are in delinquency or foreclosure. it is not just the housing market. because we have allowed the money to be redistributed to very few people at the top. almost like a pyramid scheme. a ponzi scheme. the few guys at the top have more financial wealth than bottom 95% combined. combined. 1%. more than the 95%. absolutely insane. we're talking about we love living in a democracy. we love living in a country with equality.
where is the equality where the richest 1% own practically everything. call all the shots. and construct a country where we still have outrageous poverty rates. especially with kids. high school dropout rates in our cities, outrageous. we have 40 million adults right now in this country who are considered functional illiterates, which means they cannot read or write above the fourth grade level. when you create a society like this, it is a recipe for disaster. i decided to make this movie and call it a love story because it is about the wealthy who love their money. except there is a twist in this movie. they don't just love their money. they love our money now. they want our money. they have taken people's pension funds and people's 401 (k)'s and have taken and taken to the point where people are living paycheck to paycheck. or if they are doing ok, few people are watching this now
can say with assurity, oh, yes, the job i have now, i'll have it next year. i don't know. when i was a kid, no matter what kind of job you had. my dad worked on an assembly line in a factory. my friend's dad was a clerk in a grocery store. you never had the feeling that i don't know if i'm going to be working in six months or a year. you knew if you worked hard the company would prosper and you would prosper. that was old equation, right? now it is you work hard, the company prospers and you lose your job. tavis: this is clearly an oversimplification. let me ask you because you have a two-hour movie that answers this. how did this happen? how did we get to this point where this 1% controls pretty much all the wealth? >> it happened because we allow the people with the money to control the political process. that is with both parties. they have bought these politicians. that's why they get their way. that's why t bailout took
place. seshedly because when you look at the money that comes from wall street to our candidates, it is absolutely incredible. you can see why they do their bidding. you know, we also got this way because when ronald reagan was elected in 1980 and came in and said i'm going trickle down the money to all of you people who are the working class. too many people believed that. they invented this thing called the 401 (k). invest your pension in the stock market. when air force kid, i don't know how you are but when i was a kid, nobody had a credit card. i think the guy down street had a shell card for gas. [laughter] my mom might have had a jcpenney card but that was it. you were not $6,000 in credit card debt. when i was of college age, you didn't go to a private bank to
get a student loan. you went to the financial aid office on the campus and you got work-study and had to work in the cafeteria or the library and you got a loan and pay it back when you can. then after reagan it is like no, let's put all of this student loan stuff into the private banks and then you'll be in hoc to the private bank for the next 20-30 years. a genius way to keep the working people in line because you don't want to lose your job and buck the system too much because you won't the noun pay off your student loan. these kind of things started to happen in the 1980's. that's how we got there. i show this mome that city bank wrote up four or five years ago, a private memo how we're getting away with murder here and we're making all this money and the richest 1% are just kicking butt and at the end of the memo it
says but the people may sooner or later figure out that they are not on the gravy train that we're on. and because unfortunately our biggest enemy, we, wall street, our biggest enemy is this one person-one vote thing. there is only 1% of us and 99% of them and we don't get to have more votes than they get. litter think 99% can enact a law to stop the 99% at any time. tavis: if i'm one of the 1% and i say you have the same 24 hours in a day that i have, don't fault me for how i have used my 24 hours. don't with b a hater. don't hate. congratulate. don't hate. celebrate. i got something. it is america. get off your behind and come up with a great idea and sell it to people. why are you mad at me? >> that is like the old america.
the 1% that had that. we used to make money. the people who used to do well, they made their money because great idea or worked really hard and i wouldn't fault anybody who works hard to want to better themselves to make money, open up a business, sell shoes whatever. we need that obviously. that is not the kind of capitalism i'm talking about. i'm talking about system of legalized greed where these companies, especially the banks and the wall street firms have taken the pension funds and taken the money that average, every day people have inscrested and for the last 20 years or so have been playing around with it with all of these schemes, credit default swaps with all of these complex financial instruments, exotic measures and all this. it is absolutely crazy and then they lost the money. last year they lost the money and all of a sudden, crash.
to have a situation like that, it is so dangerous for the rest of us when they say this bank is too big to fail. if it is too big to fail, it shouldn't be allowed to exist. i have to go back to the way i was raised and i was raised in the catholic church and i remember what the nuns and the priests taught me. they said we would be judged by how we treat least among us and the first should be last and the last should be first. the pie on the table and this guy comes in and says nine of those slices are mine and the other nine of you have to fight over the last slice. there is something wrong with that. if we say we believe in democracy or christian or buddhist, all of the great religions teach that that is wrong for one guy to get nine slices of the pipe and everybody
else to talk about -- of the pie and everybody else to get the one slice. tavis: you grew up in michigan. you learned about this thing called oversight. you learned about it in government class, about oversight. what happened where oversight is concerned? part of the store that you see in the film and in the papers you can ping this up. somebody was -- pick this up. somebody was asleep at the wheel. congress didn't do it job. the white house didn't do it job. the treasury department didn't do it job. how did they miss all of this. >> they were not asleep at the wheel. they just took wheel off. [laughter] starting back at the end of the clinton administration, they passed a number of regulations or i should say deregular deregulations to take away the rule and then when george bush came into office they got rid of
everything else. that is one of the big problems here. they wanted to let the banks and the wall street investment firms do whatever they wanted to do. now they can just go hog wild. of course the theory was let business work it out because business will be good for everybody else and will trickle down to the rest of us. so yes, the reason why you have to have regulation. we know as human beings we have our dark sides. greed is one of those dark sides. greed wasn't ineventsed with capitalism. it is not an american thing. it has been around for thousands of years. we have to sort of regulate ourselfs so we behave with the people we share society with. we have restrictions that we put on ourselves. one of them when it comes to greed is this oversight. unfortunately capitalism has become a system that legalized greed. it says it is ok for just a few people to run away with most of the money. we don't benefit from that.
it is not -- you said why -- part of the 1%. there is only so much money in the economy. if you want just a few people to take 95% of it, what is left for the rest of us? what is left for the guy who is living in detroit or cleveland and has got the next idea? who is the next henry ford or thomas edson or the guy who is going to instrent next internet? it doesn't exist because it has been take from people who have not been making their money making things. they have made their money off the money by investing the none. by playing around with moving around the money. i don't think that is healthy in a society like ours. tavis: those persons who you to your credit mention in the films in terms of taking on both parties. you're going after borte parties by the way they let the wheel get stole bun to your earlier --
stolen but to your earlier remps of the clintton ithes. these are the same people that obama rushed to his side. larry summers tim geithner. i can do this all day. we can spend the rest of the show running the names of of the people connected to the clinton administration who are running things for obama. you're hopeful about what? >> i'm hopeful that president obama has recognized that probably the people best to clean up the mess are the ones who created it. tavis: you're a bright guy. you believe that? >> i want to believe it. i may not be right on this. listen. we just went through the worst eight years imaginable as far as i'm concerned. and the day that president obama was elected, last november 4, it was such an emotional day. i was just really beside myself
with happiness and joy and i realized it was not going to be easy for him. he was inheriting a catastrophe. not just an economic catastrophe, three wars, etc., etc. you wouldn't wish this on anyone. god bless him for wanting to attempt to do something about it. but it was funny. when he was running for office, he wasn't the candidate of wall street. they were giving their money to mccain and hillary and some other people. when it looked like he might actually win, it is funny to look at the financial records. they just start writing checks to obama. oh, yeah, we like obama and eventually by the end of the election, goldman sachs became president obama's number one private contributor. so he took their money and now, you know, we're only eight months into his administration but we're going to see whether
or not the decisions he makes are in favor of wall street or the working people of this country. i'm going to still side with the fact that he believes that the working people in this country are the top priority. tavis: let me challenge it. i'm challenging your thesis here on two grounds. i can see this, i'm no creative force like michael moore but i can see you making parody of this in one of your films. shooting to a scene of chickens guarding, you know, -- i can see -- >> i actually shot this scene for the movie. seriously. tavis: the same people that are with clinton and are now with obama and they have r-guarding the hen house. >> it is not in the movie. i interviewed a bank robber who was hired by the big banks to advise them how the avoid bank robries. i said to obama, who better to
go to than to fix this mess than the people who screwed it up. blind faith, which i'm willing to give him. we're going to have universal health care as a result of a loud minority of angry people who already have health care screaming at him and calling him names because what does he want to do? he wants to make sure that everybody who gets sick can see a doctor. tavis: it is not about casting expurgs on the president. that is not what we're talking about here. we're talking about holding the president accountable. if you look at what has been done already, the stimulus package, wall street gets the money. you got people now saying this recession is over. yeah, it is over on wall street. not on main street. not on the side street. >> he said that, too. tavis: i'm asking you as a filmmaker, where do you see,
trickle down of this stimulus to the weak working class? where do you see that? >> we haven't seen that. tavis: that is my point. >> so i'm willing so is say that some of the first decisions that he made or ideas that he had didn't work. i'm not going to throw baby out with the bathwater. talk to me a year from now and maneuvered this whole thing to enrich their friends on wall street, if that is why they are there? tavis: i'm saying there are sounds of that already. that's why they are celebrating, jumping down on wall street right now. we ain't got to wait a year. that's what's happening now >> well, let's hope president obama is watching. seriously. if that is the case, let's say you're right. if that's what's really -- tavis: no, it is not right because i say it is right. you read the papers like i do. they are celebrating on wall street right now because they are back into the profits. it is not me saying it.
it is the facts. >> right. and the working people are yet experiencing a foreclosure every 7 1/2 seconds. tavis: precisely. >> and so president obama -- where are you? there. he is trying to get some sleep right now. if you're listening, we're with you. you know, we need you on the side of the people and if you're not then i'll come after you harder than i did george w. bush. trust that more than anything. how is that? tavis: just saying it is about accountability. i want him to be a great president. i believe he can be but i believe like you believe we have to hold him accountable. >> it will be so bad. so many millions of people. i never saw so many young people involved in the political system, getting involved and being active and if he lets all of those people down, that is going to do more damage to our democracy than anything we're talking about on this stage tonight because -- because if people check out and they will check out if they see that obama is just like all the rest.
he is in ca hoots with all of them. trying to -- bipartisan. it is like -- tavis: you're right about that. but since you shot the film, you know this because this is what you talk about in the film. with all due respect to president obama, it is the people around him i'm worried about. you don't believe that process has changed of people trying to hook their partners up. >> i don't think they are the ones pulling the strings. he is the one pulling the strings. he is not w where they are shoving him around. this is a guy who is a take charge guy and frankly right now i'm just going to go with this feeling that this guy loves basketball. he's a great basketball player for an amateur. and i think that he has been doing a lot of faking right and going left and i think the republicans know that too and that's why they have have been fighting him so hard because they know in his heart of hearts
this is a man that was raised by a single mother and grandparents who came out of nothing and when he got the good fortune to go to harvard he decides to go the ghetto in chicago and work with people. by the way, he decided to also, you know what? my name is barack. not barry. from now on i'm going to be called barack obama. not a guy thinking of being a politician trying please everybody. tavis: we agree. i think his instincts are right. i believe they are right. i'm just asking the questions about capitalism as to whether or not we think that over these next four or maybe eight years we really can turn this thing around. >> absolutely i think we can turn it around but only he has got to be the franklin roosevelt of the 21st century. if you study how roosevelt did this, he came in and said the
hell with bipartisan. the people in this country elected me. 70% of the people want health care. that's it, sorry, republicans. tavis: you think he is moving in that direction? >> i think so. to give the guy credit, he is a lot nicer guy than aam. tavis: imagine that. >> trying to hold out to olive branch to the other side. if the election had gone the other way to you think they would have been holding out to olive branch? i don't think so. he has tried that. it hasn't worked. he has to come on like our roosevelt and fight the people. i think he can do that. i think that is who he is at his core and he has to tell rubens and the exciters in and is summers. i've never lived my life like that and i'm not going to start now. tavis: you speak about this with such great passion.
it is clear in your -- in all your work. it is clear that you care about everyday people. you care about these issues. i know at one point years ago you thought about going into the ministry. >> did. tavis: is this your -- is this your ministry, the work that you do? this documentary? i see it this way. >> the church of cinema? i like that. well, listen, i feel very blessed and very praved to be able to do what -- and very privileged to be able to do what i do. coming out of flint, michigan. things are not stacked this way for someone from the working class to be able to have this voice and have this forum to be sitting here talking to you. i feel as i have been sitting in this chair and making these movies it is not just me sitting here. i'm here representing a lot of people who are not on the tavis smiley show or jay leno and are
not getting to make a movie and i'm essentially their stand-in and i'm here to say what they would like somebody to say and they never get to hear it. of all the discussions this past year, what has gone wrong with the crash of wall street, we should do this and that. i have not heard one person say maybe the problem at the core of this is the very system itself that the capitalism is not a democratic system. it is not a moral christian system. it is not -- it doesn't aspire to any of the values that we hold. why the heck are we still going down this road. i want to challenge. i want to throw it up. no one else is going to say it that i come from flint, michigan. i'm here to say it. i'm here to say there is something evil about this system and as a person who loves this country, as a person who still tries to act on my faith, that i'm -- i want an economy that you and i have a say in. right now, tavis, you and i and the people watch this show have
no say in how this democracy is run and that is not called a democracy then. tavis: you're not going anywhere. no, i'm not. tavis: neither am i. the icon that he is fast becoming. he is the best stand-in this this business. michael moore's new film, "capitalism: a love story" in a theater near you october 2. great work. glad to have you on. >> thank you. tavis: you can access our pod cast at pbs.org. thanks for watching. and as always, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. >> hi, i'm tavis smiley.
join me next time for a conversation with tom ridge. that's next time. we'll see you then. >> there are so many things wal-mart is looking forward to doing, like helping people live better. but mostly we're looking forward to helping build stronger communities and relationships. because with your help, the best is yet to come. >> nationwide insurance proudly supports tavis smiley. tavis and nationwide insurance, working to improve financial literacy and the economic empowerment that comes with it. ♪ nationwide is on your side ♪ and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.