tv The Bottom Line 2020 Ep 8 Al Jazeera February 20, 2020 2:32pm-3:01pm +03
the rebels 2 weeks ago the surface president is this huge an ultimatum for syrian troops to pull out or face retaliation the u.n. has warned of catastrophic human suffering in northwest syria only civilian people live fled their homes as the government and russia continue to bombard the last rebel held area south korea has reported its 1st deaths from coronavirus there's been a spike in the number of cases there bringing the total to $104.00 meanwhile japan's government is defending its handling of the outbreak on the diamond princess cruise ship 2 passengers from there have now died right up to date those are the latest headlines the bottom line is next.
hi i'm steve clements and i have a question how bad are the problems of big money and powerful corporations in american politics and are they eroding people stressed in elections their elected leaders and even democracy itself let's get to the bottom line. in the last presidential election cycle more than $2000000000.00 was raised and spent by the top 2 candidates donald trump and hillary clinton this time around we have some fabulously wealthy candidates mayor michael bloomberg tom stier and even donald trump but we're still waiting for proof in his never released tax forms while other candidates pride themselves on not accepting any big money with the top one percent of this country getting even richer and the poor getting poorer and the middle collapsing out of the middle class and concentration of money in fewer and fewer hands what is happening to the solvency of we the people fortunately we have
some folks with us today who have the answers matt stoler is the research director of the american economic liberties project and the author of goliath a 100 year war between monopoly power and democracy michael fauntroy is a professor of political science at howard university here in washington d.c. and joining us from stanford connecticut is republican strategist liz mayor who's been advising political candidates for years thank you all so much for joining us today this is a big heavy topic matt let me start with you you've written this book out there to really take a historical look at the concentration of power and money and how that was ill served at one point in the nation how it was toppled would you think we're back in that time so what's the danger today well so over the last 25. or so more than 75 percent of american industries have become more concentrated so we're facing a crisis of monopoly and what we see in the political realm is the manifestation of that this is new but we have experienced something like it before in the 1920 s.
and thirty's we faced robber barons who concentrated power across our political economy we defeated them in the 1930 s. during the new deal and then in the 1970 s. we made a series of intellectual choices to unleash concentrated power once again and so today we have concentration everything from cheerleading to missiles and munitions to search engines to shut social networks and then you have a bunch of monopolists like michael bloomberg for example who are running for president and who are using the money that they extract from how is michael bloomberg a monopoly so he runs basically an instant messaging and data service for hedge funds and banks and you have to use it to communicate with your clients doesn't operators have video there isn't some similarities and they do have a data service but in terms of the instant messaging you have to have a bloomberg terminal if you want to communicate it's just you can't you can't avoid it if you are at a certain level on wall street and they have their overfunded wall street because of we've been able to finance and so michael bloomberg has pricing power so every
year he personally earns you know we don't know because it's a private company but probably $1.00 to $4000000000.00 of just straight up cash which he can use to finance anything that he wants and right now he he's financing a presidential campaign and buying most of the democratic party liz let me ask you about whether you have the similar concerns that matt stoler does about the concentration of wealth and power as a as something that's a contagion is a real problem a disease to democracy if you will. with regard to elections i would say i don't quite share matt's concerns and i'll come back to why in just a minute as a political consultant i will say when we're talking about things like big tech i do have some concerns particularly there's a lot of work that i personally have done looking at google and the amount of power that they have privacy infractions these kinds of things i do have a lot of concerns about that and an awful monopolies in that context in the extensive power that they exert but in the political realm i mean let's just jump
to mike bloomberg since he's who was mentioned 1st it is astonishing to me and i see this over and over and over again in politics how much people who have a ton of money that they can spend in an unfettered way who aren't necessarily reliant on small dollar donations for example to keep them accountable to individuals just burn their money on the most insanely stupid stuff that does not do anything to advance their political fortunes so i mean a couple of good examples with regard to mike bloomberg mike bloomberg apparently has somebody on staff who is being paid quite a lot of money i can't remember the exact figure when i when i sort of poked around about this but quite a lot of money and this person or these people who are consultants literally what they're getting paid to do is reach out to so-called twitter influencers and offer them something like i think it's $6000.00 to just post favorable mike bloomberg content this is become a matter of huge reticule one of the accounts that they reached out to is an
account called el blum veto which is run by a friend of mine which basically makes fun of mike bloomberg inability to speak spanish you know and offering to collaborate or seeing if they can find a way to like spin the content of that account i don't know whether mike bloomberg maybe he's making 4000000000 a year off of bloomberg terminals but if he's spending it on that kind of thing in a campaign context he might as well just be setting his on fire for all of us to watch but maybe with regard to advertising i. i would say the same thing i mean i don't want to run on here but i live in the new york media market i'm pretty sure everybody in the new york media market knows who mike bloomberg is knows what his accomplishments are knows what it's liabilities are there's no reason that he needs to be advertising here this is a totally blue area the primaries not going to come until late and i swear to god if you put on t.v. between 6 pm and 8 pm you're going to see at least a slight bloomberg ads and this is the most expensive media market in the country
again he might as well be taking is so you're talking as if it would actually be more effective right we're talking as a strategist and that's one thing and i am guessing that the other side though is on what somebody should be doing or not be doing with their money you know i think that 1st amendment gives people you know the freedom of speech the ability to make political comments to to do the things and you know if they want to spend money foolishly our system sort of lets them do that but isn't that a thing than arguing that a fabulous lee bill you know rich billionaire is essentially somehow undermining and cutting off the way a healthy democratic ecosystem should work so i'm interested in the difference between kind of foolishness and kind of getting the equilibrium right in the democratic ecosystem. well i think if you have if you have the foolish expenditure it's very difficult to undermine the system because you're doing something that's utterly ineffective right in order to undermine
a system you have to be doing something that's effective and i would say when you look at money and politics where people are usually complaining about it generally speaking right the groups or the individuals they're talking about are wildly ineffective you know i've never actually received any koch brothers money except for like i don't know 100 bucks for a couple of recent articles i guess maybe it's partly coke fund itself just go ahead and trash the koch brothers here but you know they get a bad rap for spending so much money to procure political outcomes but if you actually look at what they do they are so wildly ineffective that i really honestly wonder why anybody's particularly concerned about them we'll see maybes tom styer will prove to be more effective with his money in south carolina and maybe i will be having a different conversation and i'll take a different tone after that but as of right now it looks like tom sawyer's billions he spent a ton of money to get to what like i haven't per cent i mean i just i just don't buy that notably undermine the system by being an effective michael i mean it is a problem for you as you see it i again i'm trying to figure out let's imagine
a healthy democratic ecosystem you respond to you know you've heard liz you've heard matt what are the pieces that matter for you is it money is it something else well you can talk about i hope the democratic system about talking about money that's part of the central core of it so you know it's something that's on for a 2nd the money part of which i hope to be able to burn through for me you can have a healthy democracy or i hope the democratic ecosystem or about a well informed electorate and so part of the problem here is that there is a lot of money that has been used not just by candidates in support of their own attempts to win all things but also money spent to misinform the public about certain things that are going on in public policy so you have people who actually believe things that are not true and so when people vote and behave but you still want to own true things the nab is that is the. active as live minutes of the 2nd to go an effective use of money misdirecting people who are. in for solving certain things that are less important than other things that are more important and that
happens just as much all make it real for me tell me you know we've heard about facebook we've heard about ads on google twitter is banned political ads which is it in an interesting step for them to take what would you have them do in the space that that would would you lead to a healthier system but not censorship well i'm not for censorship let me start there so you're not for censorship but face book runs bad thing i'm not i'm not even talking about his book at this point i'm talking to other much more ground grassroots level we have an electorate that receives countless numbers of. and consumes countless amounts of information from sources that are purposely misleading them and so when you look at the various ways in which citizens receive their information and actively believe things that are not true then to me that is where the real corrosion occurs in our democratic system there are people out there
who believe that the economy is doing well and i think you can find some data points that demonstrate that but if you live in the brasco or in the heartland of the united states or you rely on agriculture you might not know that 20 the far bankruptcies are up 20 percent this year over last year you may not know if you're here a lot and the public discourse about how the president trumpets black unemployment for example is if that's evident evidence that but the black communities are doing better but the reality is the black homeownership rate is at a 50 year low the blackmail protests of the when you hear donald trump say that you want to scream what will i do scream storm up my point is that too often we rely on one or 2 days right wants to tell a larger story that isn't backed up by the full range of. birth of information. you know and i think that's good because i was sorry i was just going to say i think that's true but i think that actually drives. a couple points that are really
important here when we're talking about money in politics the overwhelming majority of that money is spent on ads and ads are actually a fairly ineffective way of communicating information to people in influencing fotr opinion what's far more effective is earned media of course i'm a strategic communications consultant so i have to say this it's my industry but in reality if you go back and you look at 2016 it wasn't money that per curiam the result for donald trump actually the thing that correlates most strongly to electoral outcomes is the share of earned media coverage that a candidate gets and that's where i think we do have a problem because as much as i like working with ideological media on both the right and the left you do have a situation where quite a lot of those people deliberately overlook things that are counter to their philosophical driver and you also have a situation in mainstream media where you have a massive decline of local media you have a decline of investigative media and you have a lot of a shift towards employing younger reporters who don't necessarily have 10 or 15
years worth of experience to vet stories that can be very important about candidates and can provide people with some really valuable information those people aren't in a position where they're able to make good decisions so you do end up with an uninformed electorate but that's not because of the koch brothers spending money necessarily that's not because of mike bloomberg wasting all of his money advertising to people in connecticut who probably already like him look i'm. probably going to end the system going to have to step in look it's not just about ads and mike bloomberg is not wasting his money he is rising in the polls there's a there's a believe me not your lying eyes thing going on here mike there are 2 billionaires on the debate stage the president night states is a billionaire money matters ok and let me just give you a quick example the center for american progress it's not just about ads the center for american progress is the most important thing to take on the democratic side they got a lot of money from bloomberg and then they. they were trying to publish a report on on a whole bunch of aspects of civil liberties and they explicitly took out the piece on mike bloomberg setting up
a muslim surveillance unit in new york city because they were getting money from blue from from mike bloomberg and this happens across the board it happens with every big corporation in d.c. that gives money they are controlling and structuring the debate internally in here they're also spending a lot of money on ads so a lot of ads don't work a lot of ads do work but i will just say that when we're talking about the crisis of concentration we are not just talking about ads 2000 out of out of $3000.00 american counties now have no daily newspaper and this is a direct result a direct result of facebook and google concentrating power over the flow of ad money in this country that is a crisis for democracy is a crisis of concentration so how do you fix it matt because to a sensitive area that's not political campaigns just to be clear that's if we're talking about this in the content it isn't a political campaign it's absolutely political campaigns mark zuckerberg now structuring you here to excuse me can you just let me talk mark zuckerberg is is structuring how we talk about politics right now he is structuring what kind of ads
people can run and what kind of ads people can't run right that is absolutely about putting my question to you is how is what you're seeing new and different now that hasn't been part of the political dialogue for quite a long time well it's not it's not entirely new and different it's just more extreme so in the mid 1970 s. and i go into this in goliath there was a really radical shift in both political parties where they stopped seeing concentrations of private power as a threat to democracy this is the main character of my book is a congressman a right patman he was over from the texas right i'm talking about he was he was the chair of the banking committee and he was overthrown essentially by bill clinton's generation right the the watergate babies and they didn't they weren't suspicious of concentrated private power and then in $78.00 you had newt gingrich's generation come in and take over the republican party you roll that forward 40 years you roll of them now. position of the political economy for 40 years and you have what we have today which is a whole set of billionaires that are running our politics in a set of institutions concentrated private power people like mark zuckerberg so you
mentioned organizations in d.c. blow the whistle on some of this kind of thing well the money through your point helps explain why are we aren't hearing them right in the size of the whistle in the silence of the world so is informed in some measure by how much money and how much reach you have yes it may be true that some of these has don't do much to impact the way people think but they help to reinforce what people already believe based on the information they get other than other places so i just think that when you look at some of these good government organizations as we might call them we have to understand when they help provide legitimacy in our political system they are now wildly out maneuvered by a tremendous amounts of money and influence and strategic decisions that are being made that do not allow them to play the role and so when i look at it like that i look at it can i take issue with that we really quickly yes so also these these part of the problem is these whistleblowing agencies are 80 illogically ill set up
because the problem we have is political and they try to claim that they're a political that they're nonpartisan this is a political problem it's an ideological problem and we need political leaders to run against it and that's what's happening right now i think what i've always felt i think part of what liz is beyond here which i find so interesting is it does look at the responsible responsibility of media and other voices like these groups is i look at every entity i've come from think tanks i've been in media i've been worked in the government and i think liz is right that there's a certain ecosystem out there a kind of sound system if you will part of it is responsible and part of it you know what you look at the earned media side which is really trying to say how do you get your story told in a high quality way is that is that fair depiction liz. you know i think that that is i think that is fair and how do you get i mean if you're running against the equivalent of not to borrow from matt overlay but if you're running against the equivalent of a go liath right how do you get negative information out there about that person if that is valuable information that voters need to have i mean that's something that
i've struggled with struggled with it in some context to it that's a really serious problem but i do want to make the distinction if we're talking about politics i think it's important to distinguish politics from policy because when i'm talking politics i'm talking campaigns and elections and the reality is that the overwhelming majority of money in those campaigns and elections is spent on running t.v. ads which are massively ineffective i do believe yes as as we've discussed that when you're talking about certain things and names that appear on facebook they can help reinforce and sort of amp up what people already think but that's a pretty small part of the puzzle i also agree with matt that when we're talking about groups and we're talking about policy and an effort to influence policy yes 3rd party groups do play an important role and yes they can be bought and sold many of them are extraordinarily transactional you know i've been placed in situations where i've gone to people who have an existing interest in a policy issue that i am working on and have said you know hey maybe this write
something you'd be interested in starting up a blog post about it and i've literally been have had people turn around and say yeah give me $25000.00 that's a problem it is a problem i admit that but i just think when we're talking about politics we have to be distinct about that because that's where you really get into my god money such a huge problem and it's mostly being burned on t.v. ads and i want to ask is it really the years of a big question i was with senator sheldon whitehouse the other night who had written his book called captured some of the similar themes not all but some similar and goliath his point is that the legal decision in the supreme court called citizens united and for those who don't know it this is a decision that if essentially gave corporations the right to be a person to be an individual. well to to act in a political system and to give money and to have a kind of freedom of speech that makes no distinction between that corporation and individual and senator whitehouse his comment was that this has killed the ability of the parties to work together that the corporations have become so powerful in
controlling the message in punishing legislators that wander off away from that might wander off that it is created an inability to work on issue after issue after issue of major concern like climate change was the one that he was discussing and i'd like to hear from you on whether you share senator white house's perspective on that and whether that is something that to get back because i'm really interested in not just you know lamenting where we were but how do you actually restore a kind of healthy equilibrium to the system i think the liath to certain degree posits that we need to go back to sort of an empowered small business class to some degree and begin to roll back the power of these companies to it which would have its own side effects but how do you look at it well there's no question that citizens united. what i would consider to be a malignant impact on american politics but it wasn't a climate for the citizens united and i think that should be noted too as we think about the impact of citizens united and how it is on the help that unleash all of
this money and we know that these corporations and wealthy individuals don't spend the money just because they spend the money because they want a particular result and so as a consequence we have all of this money washing through our system creating all sorts of misdirection the get us to move in certain directions that we might not otherwise move in terms of where do we go from here so i think it's a big question i am struggling with because the reality is our current class of elected officials in many cases on both sides of the aisles are captured by the money and i come back to the notion that people need to voters need to us. stan how that really impacts their daily lives if you want to know why there's a toxic dump site near your home and not someplace else or why there's not clean water in your community but there is another all of these the political decisions that bring up to come to grips with my view at this point is that most citizens
don't understand that the rubber meets the road in their own community other showmen ask you is that their fault or is that somebody a little bit of there's a little bit of action of response i don't look at i'm kind of down on the voter right now because i think that too many of us have abdicated our writers to respond i mean i think it's i think liz and matt just in the last couple minutes here can you tell us as well i would i'd really love to hear this mayor what you would do i mean you're on the republican side of things you're a strategist how would you restore health to the system to short form. that's a good question one thing that i will say from personal experience going way back to high school that i think could be very valuable is let's have a better civics education in our schools and i don't mean people sitting there and teaching the constitution in classrooms one of the things that my school did unfortunately they have curtailed the requirement but i believe when i was a senior that requirement was that in we had a 5 term system at our school but in the 1st term you had to complete i believe it
was 25 hours worth of volunteering on a political campaign 25 hours now if you really want to understand how politics in america works and where there are deficiencies and you want to be part of educating voters putting 25 hours in requiring people to do that that actually makes a big difference people have to learn a lot and think a lot more about it than they would if they just have to test. his ship if you will within the political system fascinating yeah i mean i don't want to create i don't necessarily want to create a glide of future political consultants that i have to clearly that would leave me with them and they would feel and see what was going on manama give you the last word yeah you have provoked us with this fascinating book i'm interested in right pat and i'm interested in whether a right pattern would even survive in today's paper but just short form what do you think the steps are to getting back into a world that you think is fair and better and more just in the u.s. political system well 1st of all it's global it's global problem we are we are doing it that's what's exciting about this moment so what you see with candidates
like bernie sanders elizabeth warren and even you know a host of candidates that have antitrust platforms is a resounding of our politics around political economy and it's really exciting even trump ran on trade questions which hasn't really been a part of our politics since the early ninety's so the populism that we're seeing is a good thing and it is a response to the financial crisis and a whole series of failures so i would say get on board populism get on board i'm a democratic left populous. but fundamentally we the people have to take responsibility for our society and we have to reject bad and corrupt leaders that have an ideological deference to aristocracy and we're starting to do that and that's what's so exciting about this current political moment even though it seems really bad there is a rebellion and i think we should all be a part of that and learn how to restructure our political institutions to deal with these concentrations of power i'd like to thank you all for being with us in stamford connecticut republican strategist liz mair and with me here in washington
d.c. matt stoler research director of the american economic liberties project and howard university political scientist michael fauntroy thanks so much for being with us so what's the bottom line our panelists agree on one big thing campaigns american awareness of issues and their civic responsibility and the power of billionaires and big firms are all out of whack liz argues that big money doesn't automatically produce big wins and a lot of money is spent with no impact matt argues that monopolies and violations of public trust have produced the populism america needs at the moment michael says citizens have failed to live up to their responsibilities as informed citizens while american politics are always a mess always looking like a highway of corrupt special interests the founding fathers of the usa worried about the same issues we're debating today and we're going to be debating them for another 200 years this story never ends and that's the bottom line.
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