October 19, 2009

From the Today Show Oct. 15, 2009. Dylan Ratigan and Michael Moore slam Wall Street for the latest round of bonuses being paid to their executives after being rescued by our tax dollars.

Lauer: Dylan, let me start with you. There are going to be a lot of confused people out here. The Dow is over 10,000 again. The bonuses are back, but on Main Street you’ve got money still tight, spending is tough, people can’t get mortgages, and unemployment is still a problem. Is it just the reality now that Wall Street and Main Street are completely disconnected?

Ratigan: Largely they were. Unfortunately the government has changed the rules on behalf of Wall St. to allow them access to trillions of our dollars as you and I have discussed, as Michael Moore has documented. When you have access to trillions of dollars of taxpayer money with no strings attached, it's very easy to make a few billion dollars. A billion is only 1/1000 of a trillion and because our government is allowing the indulgence of the risk taking of the trillions of our own money not only is it allowing Wall Street to make the billions, but it is also depriving the rest of our economy out of the use of those funds which is why you see the heart wrenching antidotes that Michael Moore is so good at portraying.

There is a direct connection between those who you see suffering in films that Michael documents and the abdication of duty by our government to allow all the taxpayer money we all work so hard to create to be the plaything, the gambling toy, of the financial industry as opposed to forcing the financial industry to get back to the business of being investors and becoming the next Warren Buffet, actually putting money into the economy as opposed to taking it out.

Lauer: Michael, let me make sure people understand this. The Wall Street Journal report says that firms are going to pay out about a $140 billion dollars in bonuses this year. The year before the economic meltdown, 2007, they paid out about $130 billion, so it’s gone up. How is this news going to go over with people like the ones in your home state Michigan that just found out unemployment is 15.3% in that state?

Moore: Well eventually people aren’t going to take it and I don’t know how many gated communities these people who are taking this $140 billion in bonuses, I don’t know how many castles with moats around them they can build, but I’ll tell you something—there’s an anger that’s building out there and I mean Matt, these people, they burned down our economy. They completely crashed it. And now they're getting rewarded for it. It would be like I burned down your house today and then tomorrow you send me a check for it thanking me. It's absolutely insane that we allow this to happen but not surprising because that’s our capitalist system. They can get away with it because it’s legal. They can get away with it because they can make whatever they want to make. They can take whatever they want to take. There’s no such thing as enough.

Lauer: Let me play devil’s advocate. This is for both of you. Michael why don’t you start with it. What about this axiom that in business you pay your best people more to keep them so they keep making you money and what about the argument that these bonuses are simply a way of rewarding the people who are making the most money for these institutions.

Moore: Okay, let’s see. Let’s pay the best people, these would be these people, who helped wreck and ruin our economy—let’s pay them for what they did. I mean this is absolutely crazy logic. There are 14,000 people every day that lose their health insurance. As you said in your report there’s 15 million out of work. There’s a person, there’s a home that’s foreclosed in this country every seven and a half seconds.

Now sooner or later people are going to say that’s it, that’s enough. My hope is that when the Congressional switch board opens in about an hour that everybody watching us just calls their member of Congress and say that they have had it, that they want to this to stop. You said that Bank of America is going to hand out $30 billion in bonuses. You know how much TARP money, our money they got? $30 billion—that’s our money. If people just sit by and let this happen, then we deserve everything we get.

Ratigan: Capitalism in its best form—the government strictly enforces rules of investment Matt on the financial side so the only way an investor can make money is by trying to be the next great venture capitalist, the next great Warren Buffet and picking winners among our best and brightest to support innovators. So you have innovators here investors here and workers that support both of those communities.

What Wall Street has done is they’ve taken the language of innovation and wrapped it around the business of investment and changed the government rules so innovating is a way to take money out as opposed to a way to put money in so when you say pay your best people you have to be clear about what you’re paying your best people to do. And if you’re paying your best people to extract as much money as possible from this economy, yes they are creating that “value” if you want to call it that.

Lauer: Right.

Ratigan: But they’re creating it at the expense of the totality of the system, which is why you see that. In an ideal world you me and Mr. Moore here are competing to invest money to be the next Warren Buffet with kids from colleges across the country with ideas as opposed to coming up with schemes where we change the rules and basically perpetrate insurance fraud.

Lauer: Michael just 30 seconds left. Take the last 30 seconds please.

Moore: We’re a year after the crash and not one single regulation has been passed—not one. There’s a bill right now before the Financial Services Committee in the Senate to have a consumer protection agency. The banking industry has fought this. You know they poured over $200 million in lobbying fees just this year alone to stop any single rule from being put on them. They are out of control. They will not stop unless they’re reigned in. But as long as you’ve got an economic system that encourages this kind of greed, that legalizes the greed, then you’re going to see not only this, you’re going to see other things happening in the future.

And you know what—if Goldman Sachs is so poor, you know maybe people should just—maybe everybody watching should just take a few pennies and drop them in an envelope and send them to them at 85 Broad Street, NY, NY today if they’re really hurting that bad.

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