The unprecedented level of economic inequality in America is undeniable. In an extended essay, Bill Moyers shares examples of the striking extremes of wealth and poverty across the country, including a video report on California’s Silicon Valley. There, Facebook, Google, and Apple are minting millionaires, while the area’s homeless -- who’ve grown 20 percent in the last two years -- are living in tent cities at their virtual doorsteps.
“A petty, narcissistic, pridefully ignorant politics has come to dominate and paralyze our government,” says Bill, “while millions of people keep falling through the gaping hole that has turned us into the United States of Inequality.”
Filmmaker David Sutherland explores that question tonight in Kind Hearted Woman, a two-part television event from Frontline and Independent Lens.
The five-hour film, aired in two parts on PBS April 1 and 2, focuses on Robin Charboneau, a member of the Oglala Sioux tribe in North Dakota. A single mother struggling to raise her two children on the Spirit Lake Nation reservation, Charboneau faces daunting odds living in a community plagued by poverty, alcoholism, domestic violence, sexual abuse, and a systemic unwillingness to address its own worst problems.
Charboneau’s path is made no easier by her own troubled childhood. From the age of 3 she was brutally assaulted by family members, then placed in a foster home at 13. Alcoholism, depression, and troubled relationships with abusive men, including her ex-husband, marked her young adulthood. The couple’s custody battles over their children -- daughter Darian, now 17, and son Anthony, 14 -- frame much of Sutherland’s story, which he began filming in 2008, following Charboneau as she fled the reservation and tried to establish an independent life for herself and her kids.
Bill Moyers brutally slams the hypocrisy of “justice for all” in a society where billions are squandered for a war born in fraud while the poor are pushed aside. Turns out true justice — not just the word we recite from the Pledge of Allegiance — is still unaffordable for those who need it most. Moyers says we’ve “turned a deaf ear” to the hopeful legacy of Gideon vs. Wainwright, the 50-year-old Supreme ruling that established the constitutional right of criminal defendants to legal representation, even if they can’t pay for it.
The next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance – “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” – remember: it’s a lie. A whopper of a lie.
“Justice for all” is a line item in the budget – sequestered now by the Paul Ryans of Congress and the Fix the Debt gang of plutocratic CEOs who, with a wink-wink from our president, claim, “Oh, we can’t afford that!”
Of the $100 billion spent annually on criminal justice in this country, only two to three percent goes to defend the poor. Of 97 countries, we rank 68th in access to and affordability of civil legal service.
No, we can’t afford it, but just a decade ago we started shelling out $2.2 trillion for a war in Iraq born of fraud.
We can’t afford it, while Dick Cheney’s old outfit Halliburton raked in $40 billion worth of contracts because of that war.
Watch Bill’s conversations with civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson and journalists Martin Clancy and Tim O’Brien for more insight and context on Gideon, as well as in-depth exploration of current inequalities in America’s criminal justice system.
Even as President Obama’s talking points champion the middle class and condemn how our economy caters to the very rich, modern American capitalism is a story of continued inequality and hardship. Even a modest increase in the minimum wage — as suggested by the president — faces opposition from those who seem to show allegiance first and foremost to America’s wealthy and powerful.
Yet some aren’t just wringing their hands about our economic crisis; they’re fighting back. Economist Richard Wolff joins Bill Moyers to shine light on the disaster left behind in capitalism’s wake, and to discuss the fight for economic justice, including a fair minimum wage. A Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, and currently Visiting Professor in the Graduate Program in International Affairs of the New School, Wolff has written many books on the effects of rampant capitalism, including Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It.
Also on the broadcast, activist and author Saru Jayaraman marches on Washington with restaurant workers struggling to make ends meet, and talks about how we can best support their right to a fair wage. Jayaraman is the co-founder and co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, which works to improve pay and working conditions for America’s 10 million-plus restaurant workers. She is also the author of Behind the Kitchen Door, a new exposé of the restaurant industry.
How do you make sense of a seemingly senseless act of violence? How do you help the country begin to process the trauma of 20 small children shot dead in their classroom?
The Hartford Courant and Frontlineare piecing together the lives of Nancy Lanza and her son Adam, who killed his mother and 26 first-graders, school officials and teachers during the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December.
Adam attended Sandy Hook as a first-grader, but his mother pulled him out of the school and several other schools over the course of his childhood.
In addition to Asperger’s syndrome, Adam from an early age also had sensory integration disorder, which left him unable to handle loud noises, pain and crowds, but is not a universally accepted medical diagnosis.
As a child, Adam got upset when others gave him a high-five or a pat on the back. It saddened his mother, Nancy, who didn’t know how to help him.
Andrew Julien, editor of The Hartford Courant, points out: “Nancy Lanza is the person Adam was closest to in the world. She was the first person he killed. He shot her four times in the head while she was in bed, and then he went off to Sandy Hook Elementary School. If we can begin to understand Adam’s relationship with Nancy, we probably can begin to understand Adam.”
Part one, Raising Adam Lanza, draws on Nancy’s own emails, previously unseen photos and exclusive home video footage of Adam, as well as insider interviews, to reveal a mother’s complex relationship with her troubled young son. Part two, Newtown Divided follows Courant reporter Matt Kauffman as he explores the consequences of the shooting in a town that has a long history of firearms and gun ownership, and where people most deeply affected by the tragedy are wrestling with our nation’s gun culture and laws.
From PBS, "The Revisionaries" is an important look at how a few right wing religious fanatics duped a state into teaching kids in public schools that evolution and creationism in science class, and that students need to be taught about the importance of the "Heritage Foundation" in history textbooks.
Once every decade, the highly politicized Texas State Board of Education rewrites the teaching and textbook standards for its nearly five million schoolchildren. When an unabashed creationist seeks re-election as chairman, the theory of evolution and U.S. history are caught in the crosshairs, which could impact the classroom curricula not only of Texas, but also of the nation as a whole.
This is a must see in order to keep it from happening in other states.
In Austin, Texas, 15 people influence what is taught to the next generation of American children. Once every decade, the highly politicized Texas State Board of Education rewrites the teaching and textbook standards for its nearly five million schoolchildren. And when it comes to textbooks, what happens in Texas affects the nation as a whole. Texas is one of the nation's largest textbook markets because it is one of the few where the state decides what books schools can buy rather than leaving it up to local districts, which means publishers that get their books approved can count on millions of dollars in sales. Further, publishers craft their standard textbooks based on the requirements of the biggest buyers. As a result, the Texas board has the power to shape the textbooks that children around the country read for years to come.
Don McLeroy, a dentist, Sunday school teacher, and avowed young-earth creationist, leads the Religious Right charge. After briefly serving on his local school board, McLeroy was elected to the Texas State Board of Education and later appointed chairman. During his time on the board, McLeroy has overseen the adoption of new science and history curriculum standards, drawing national attention and placing Texas on the front line of the so-called “culture wars.”
In his last term, McLeroy, aided by Cynthia Dunbar, an attorney from Houston and professor of Law at Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University, finds himself not only fighting to change what Americans are taught, but also fighting to retain his seat on the board. Challenged by Kathy Miller, president of the Texas Freedom Network, and Ron Wetherington, an anthropology professor from Southern Methodist University in Texas, McLeroy faces his toughest term yet.
The Revisionaries shines a spotlight on the key players effecting U.S. high school textbooks, with characters representing a wide array of personalities and desires. Some see the board as a stepping-stone to future political success. Others see it as their ordained quest to preserve the teachings of the Bible. Still others see it as their duty to ensure that their children, who are in the public schools, have access to the best possible education that will prepare them to compete for jobs in the global marketplace. In all of this, one thing is assured, these board members are in the right place at the right time. They have the opportunity to affect a generation of Americans.
Filmed for over three years, filmmaker Scott Thurman has captured all of the intense debates, vote trading, and compromises amongst the board members. He shows the back room discussions between the board members and the experts, and is with them as they make their decisions. But, first and foremost, The Revisionaries is about people, those few passionate citizens who are fighting to shape the course of American education, and the future of America with it.
Journalist Matt Taibbi assesses the Obama Administration’s approach to holding banks accountable for their behavior, and early indications are not promising. Taibbi tells Bill Moyers that fearing another economic calamity is no excuse for turning a blind eye to shockingly unethical decisions and management.
“The rule of law isn’t really the rule of law if it doesn’t apply equally to everybody. If you’re going to put somebody in jail for having a joint in his pocket, you can’t let higher ranking HSBC officials off for laundering $800 million for the worst drug dealers in the entire world,” Taibbi tells Bill. “Eventually it eats away at the very fabric of society.”
Watch Bill’s full conversation with Taibbi on this weekend’s Moyers & Company.
A recent article in The New York Timesreported on a cost-control exception provided to Amgen, the world’s largest biotechnology firm. According to the report, the sweetheart deal — hidden in the Senate’s final “fiscal cliff” bill — will cost taxpayers half a billion dollars. Bill Moyers talks to U.S. Representative Peter Welch (D-VT) about the bi-partisan bill he recently sponsored to repeal that giveaway, and the political factors that allow such crony capitalism to occur.
“When there is this back room dealing that comes at enormous expense to taxpayers and enormous benefit to a private, well-connected, for-profit company, we’ve got to call it out,” Welch tells Moyers. “Those members of Congress who are concerned about the institution, about our lack of credibility, about the necessity of us doing things that are in the public good as opposed to private gain, we’ve got to call it out.”
In "The Untouchables," Frontline investigates why Wall Street's leaders have escaped prosecution for any fraud related to the sale of bad mortgages. Are Wall Street's big bankers untouchable?
Producer Martin Smith joined HuffPo Live on Tuesday to discuss his investigation into the lack of prosecution of Wall Street executives for any fraud related to the sale of bad mortgages:
Commenting on clips from the episode showing former home loan underwriters explaining how they would laugh as they pushed through mortgages that were too expensive for the borrowers, Smith said this type of behavior was "very frequent and common."
"There are lawsuits that name 35 -- easily 36, 37 -- of these kind of testimonies," Smith told HuffPost Live host Jacob Soboroff. "And these guys are joking about it at this point, but of course it's not really funny in the end because it all resulted in the collapse of 2008, a million people losing their houses, many people out of work and businesses seeing demand sink."
"It was like a party," one former loan underwriter tells Frontline's" Martin Smith. "We were getting through these loans as quick as we can. They were not being looked at like they should've been looked at."
The PBS Frontline investigation "The Untouchables," airs on Tuesday, January 22, 2013. Frontline investigates how more than four years since the financial crisis, not one senior Wall Street executive has faced criminal prosecution for fraud. Are Wall Street executives “too big to jail"? Check out the preview video above. You can check your local viewing schedule here.