| Capitalism in the hot seat |
By Arthur B. Laffer, Stephen Moore, Peter Tanous
GLENN: Stephen Moore from the Wall Street Journal and the author of the book End of Prosperity. Stephen.
MOORE: Hi, Glenn.
GLENN: How are you?
MOORE: Happy President's Day. By the way, I have an explanation for why some smart people think that, you know, the free enterprise system doesn't work. They think we have free enterprise in America, but we don't.
GLENN: Thank you.
MOORE: We don't.
GLENN: We haven't had it in since the turn of last century.
MOORE: That's right, I just sent your producer a chart that shows that in 1900 the federal government's share of all output was 4.8%. Today, 33%.
GLENN: Unbelievable. Unbelievable. So we are this hybrid, and we have been for a while, and it really started under FDR. But it started moving under Wilson and then really got cranking under FDR and kept cranking. Reagan brought it back down a bit and then now here it is, bigger and badder than ever.
MOORE: Well, that's right. The one kind of joke about the start of the Obama administration and the passage of this, quote, stimulus bill is this is supposed to be change. How is this change? George Bush took the budget from $1.9 trillion to $3.5 trillion and now Obama in his first 30 days in office has taken it up by another trillion dollars. That ain't change.
GLENN: So Stephen, what I want you to do here in the next couple of minutes, I just want you to explain to the American people, A, the nationalization of banks, what that means. We're already on the hook for, what is it, $7 or $8 trillion of this banking debt.
MOORE: That's right.
GLENN: Which means if it goes down, we're going to have to pay for it.
GLENN: With everything in total, we have doubled the size of the national debt on the one set of books.
GLENN: The $10 trillion. Now on that set of books if you really looked at everything that we have promised since September, it is now $20 trillion. True or false?
MOORE: Unfortunately those numbers sound pretty accurate to me. You know, we don't know exactly because the Fed doesn't keep its books very open. So we don't know exactly how much bank debt it has bought, but your number of about $7 trillion is certainly in the ballpark. And what we're headed towards is bank nationalization. But I laugh when you say that because we're already doing that. The federal -- the Fed has turned itself into the largest commercial bank in the world over the last six months. We use this language, nationalizing the banks. It's already happening, folks. I mean, the Fed is operating as a bank with taking on $8 trillion in debt. And by the way, nobody elected Ben Bernanke, right? I mean, this guy is close to a kind of economic dictator as Hugo Chavez is in Venezuela.
GLENN: Well, I will tell you this. Here are the actual stats. Amount of cash already spent by the U.S. to rescue the banks, $3 trillion. That's the Fed.
GLENN: I never approved $3 trillion. Did you approve that?
MOORE: I never -- nobody voted for Ben Bernanke.
MOORE: Did you vote for Ben Bernanke?
GLENN: No. So that's just the Fed coming in with the treasury and saying we're going to spend $3 trillion.
GLENN: That's my money -- better yet, that's my children's lifestyle going right out the window.
GLENN: Okay. So when they come in and they truly take over the banks.
MOORE: In that case what they're actually talking about is having the federal government operate, CitiBank, Bank of America, many of these other large banks that are failing, where essentially the government would own and operate the banks.
GLENN: Stephen, talk me down from the crazy tree on this one.
MOORE: I try to do that every week, Glenn.
GLENN: I know, and you're not very good at it. Okay, here's what this means to me. Once you have Barney Frank and Chris Dodd and Barack Obama in charge of the banks, or let's make it the opposite way: George Bush, Dick Cheney and ExxonMobil all in a dark room controlling the banks, you now can use it for politically correct purposes.
MOORE: Of course.
GLENN: You can now say you're not getting this loan because we're not going to loan any more money to radio stations unless you have -- we don't have to pass the Fairness Doctrine.
GLENN: We're just not going to give you the money for your loans. They now have control of all of the country's financial information, and they'll say they have it through the IRS, et cetera, et cetera, but they have immediate access to everything digitally, right?
MOORE: Yes, from a privacy perspective it's very dangerous.
GLENN: It's gone.
MOORE: Imagine the banks saying, we can't lend you this money, 8% aren't Hispanic, 11% aren't black, 14% aren't gay. They have all of these new rules come out.
MOORE: And, of course, that's because, you know, today is President's Day and I got this great quote from George Washington where he says that government is a fearsome master and that's something. You know, we've forgotten about what the founding fathers stood for. They stood for limited government with government standing out of the way of the free enterprise system. We don't have that anymore. We don't have free enterprise today.
GLENN: Fearsome master, he compared it to fire. He said it's a great slave but it is a fearsome master. I mean, it is something that you should be very, very wary of. And people don't truly understand that with the federal government, if they control financing, what don't they control. It's the same thing that everybody has been saying about, you know, the Fed: Oh, these conspiracy theorists, it's the Star Chamber, blah, blah, blah. This is no conspiracy. This is what the Fed is doing. They do it and they don't have to tell anybody about it. Now if the federal government takes over these banks, they control your entire life. They no longer have to pass any new laws on affirmative action. They will just coerce business.
MOORE: That's right.
GLENN: You are going to be union.
MOORE: That's right.
GLENN: That's just the way it is. Moore poor but did you see our article the other day about how the unions have now sent letters to every major bank saying, if you take any penny of government money, you shall not be allowed to lobby against the forced union bill that they want to pass. So now they want to take away the free speech of businesses so say, you know, you take a penny of government money, you can't take on the unions and so it's a perfect example of how this money is never free. But I blame a lot of these companies for taking the money in the first place.
GLENN: Oh, yeah.
MOORE: Of course when you take money from congress, it isn't free.
GLENN: Okay. So Stephen, now help me on this because I've reached a place in my life that my wife and I were talking about it last night. I would rather, I would rather grow my own food, chop my own wood for heat, raise chickens, do whatever I have to do, work at a lousy job that I just barely scrape by so my children will have the freedom to be able to create their own destiny and follow their own path down the road than nationalizing the banks. I believe in people. I do not believe in the government. I don't believe in capitalism just being used by a group of people in Washington.
MOORE: You don't want to go to the Pelosi bank?
GLENN: I don't want to go to the Pelosi bank. So I know how that one ends: "Sorry, Mr. Beck, your account's been closed." So help me out because there is a lot of people that will just say, "Well, I mean, this is the only option that we have.
MOORE: No, there's a much better option. That's, you know, the survival of the fittest. Basically I believe the banks that are bankrupt and that have made bad loans and got sucked into, you know, to the sub prime, they should be allowed to fail. You know, our friend Peter Schiff says this so well that, you know, our country should be based on the idea of the survival of the fittest, and what we have in Washington right now is the survival of the unfittest.
GLENN: We have the people that believe in Darwin, and they will not allow it to happen.
MOORE: That's right.
GLENN: They are the people that fight for evolution and survival of the fittest, but they fight it every step of the way. They won't allow it to collapse and rebuild. And you know what it is? Capitalism done right, freedom done right is like a forest fire, and the people who are the environmentalists, they try to save the forest by not allowing controlled burns or the forest to burn. So it never renews.
MOORE: And then, of course, eventually it all burns down.
GLENN: It burns to the ground. And then you lose absolutely everything. So Stephen, you and I both know that if we're not at the "Burn to the ground" yet, we will be after this bubble. After whatever it is we're creating, there's no more -- one more lightning strike and the damn thing burns to the ground. So again you say survival of the fittest, but tell me, Stephen, today what you think that looks like if CitiBank, Bank of America and all these big banks plus all of the money that we've just poured into all these banks is just gone.
MOORE: Well, look at what's happened to the money that we've already put in. Remember that we've put it just as an example, we've put in $70 billion into CitiBank already and their market capitalization today is $50 billion. So the bank is worth less today than the amount of money we've already put into it. And so look, I don't think nationalizations of the banks is likely to happen. I think we're just going to keep pouring federal tax dollars down this rat hole of the more money the banks lose, the more money that we put into them and this is, of course, the people who pay for these sins that we're committing today are your children, my children, our grandchildren and that's why I think you're -- you know, I'm starting to agree with you that maybe I should start teaching my kids survival tactics, how to hunt.
GLENN: You know, you laugh.
MOORE: I'm not laughing. I used to laugh when you said that, but --
GLENN: Okay. So Stephen, help me here. I don't agree with you. I think people --
MOORE: I definitely agree with that. It's all about money and power and control.
GLENN: And the way to do it is to control the banks. If you control the banks, you control all information. You don't have to pass anything in congress. You just do -- you just run the banks differently.
MOORE: Yeah, but see, where I disagree with you, Glenn, I think the people are going to rise up. They are going to rise up in complete rebellion against the stimulus plan, against the bank bailouts or the auto bailouts. I really think the American people are so outraged and angry right now, I mean, it's like a tinderbox that's ready to just explode. If people didn't want -- this isn't the "Change" they wanted.
GLENN: You disagree with me on this?
MOORE: Yeah, I think you can't take this lying down.
GLENN: No, I don't. No, I don't. I've been saying -- that's the perfect storm. I've been saying what the real problem is that nobody -- and thank you, Stephen, for finally saying it. Not that I've been trying to get you to say it. Nobody else sees it in your role. You are the first economist that I have heard take into account revolution and that is one of the pieces of the perfect storm. You've got Mexico on the verge of collapse. You've got California on the verge of collapse.
GLENN: You've got -- the New York Times reported that in this year there will be 50 -- think of this -- 50 million people unemployed on planet Earth, 50 million people. You're going to have uprisings, and when you do, then the whole thing -- we're not looking into the American Revolution. We're looking at a French Revolution. We have planted the seeds of "Hate the rich, eat the rich" for so long, and the rich have done nothing but slap people in the face the whole time. I just don't see this ending well.
MOORE: Well, look, it's going to be tough and we're going to pay a very high price for, you know, the stimulus plan, the bailouts. I think it's going to happen quickly. I don't think it's going to be physical violence but I think there will be -- well, look. We elected these people, all right? So we're totally to blame, folks. We elected these lunatics to congress. So until we start saying, look, we cannot have a nanny state where the government can do everything for us, you know, this kind of debt, growth and recession is going to last and last.
GLENN: And let me just ask the -- let me just ask you, Stephen, and anybody in the audience. Have you run across people that are now starting to talk about socialism, they are starting to talk -- you know one of the big trends on, what is it, Facebook or MySpace or whatever it is, one of them, we're investigating now the trend in the 20-somethings is to say that you're not a Democrat or a Republican but to say socialist/Marxist.
MOORE: Yeah, the T-shirts, how to sell T-shirts. Pretty soon it's going to be Marx and Lenin. But this is a product. I mean, this is the subject of another conversation you and I have to have. But we're paying a high price also for your crummy education system.
MOORE: Who do you think galore nice people like Che Guevara, Marx and Lenin?
GLENN: It's amazing. Okay, thank you very much. Bye-bye.