Posted by: philipfontana | March 19, 2015

Changing America

 “Bill Moyers & Company”


Bringing Responsible Change to What Ails America


–A Call for a New “Citizens’ Movement”—



     Excuse us for living, but some of us are old enough to remember Bill Moyers as more than just a distinguished talk show host on PBS TV. Bill Moyers first served in the Kennedy administration as Deputy Director of the Peace Corps, 1962-1963. He then moved on to be Special Assistant to President Johnson, 1963-1967, most notably organizing the Great Society legislation and the “War on Poverty,” plus serving as White House Press Secretary. There was even serious talk and consideration over the years that followed of a Bill Moyers for president campaign that never came to fruition.

Best Moyers & Co

         Bill Moyers distinguished himself as a commentator & interviewer on PBS TV stations over a span of almost 45 years. During those years, he also provided analysis & commentary at both CBS &, for a lesser period, NBC.

But it was Bill Moyers successful journalism career – – 30 some Emmy Awards and 9 Peabodys – – with a number of excellent news programs, documentaries, and interviews on PBS TV that was responsible for his notoriety and prominence. Most notable was “Bill Moyers Journal,” 1971-1981, that many people recall. Following that run came several documentaries in 1986 and 1987 and then an interview series in 1988. During this time, Bill Moyers was working at CBS News, first as editor and chief correspondent, 1976-1980, and then senior news analyst and commentator, 1981-1986. In that latter capacity, he also worked at NBC Nightly News in the mid-1990’s.

One of his most prominent resurrections was in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center. His series of programs, “Now with Bill Moyers,” from January 2002 to 2014, gave his audience great comfort in trying to give those terrible weeks, months and years and all that followed, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, some perspective, through commentary and analysis.

Other PBS Moyers programs followed, keeping the franchise going: “Wide Angle,” 2005, “Faith & Reason,” “Moyers on America,” both in 2006, even the return of the title, Bill Moyers Journal,” 2007-2010.

But it was in his most recent series dubbed, “Moyers & Company,” 2012 and ending just this past January 2015 (a sure bet to return under this or another name once more funding is secured), that Bill Moyers entertained a number of guests on the subject of what ails America with the multitude of problems we face. I found these programs exceptionally engaging on a subject dear to my heart and, I am sure, to many other people. There seemed to be a connecting line between the narratives of a number of these guests. They all were about bringing responsible change to an America that did not seem to be working anymore in these troubled times. And three of these guests, more than the others, were the most engaging.


         Professor Richard Wolff as he appeared on “Moyers & Company,” February 22, 2013, called, “Fighting for Economic Justice & Fair Wages.”

“Moyers & Company,” February 22, 2013: Richard Wolff, Professor of Economics for 35 years at the University of Massachusetts and now Visiting Professor at The New School University, New York City; he has written many books on the effects of rampant capitalism including Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism, and Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown & What to Do About It. The thrust of Richard Wolff’s appearance on the program, called, “Fighting for Economic Justice & Fair Wages,” can best be summed up in his own words:

“We have this disparity getting wider and wider between those for whom capitalism continues to deliver the goods by all means, [and] a growing majority in this society facing harder and harder times. And that’s what provokes some of us to begin to say it’s a systemic problem.”

“Moyers & Company,” March 22, 2013: Richard Wolff was brought back to respond to viewers questions. In this segment, called, “Curing Capitalism,” he went deeper into economic inequality, inadequate regulation of industry, and “the widening gap between a booming stock market and a population that increasingly lives in poverty.”

Marty Kaplan

         Columnist Mart Kaplan on “Moyers & Company,” July 22, 2013. His message was called, “Weapons of Mass Distraction.”



“Moyers & Company,” July 22, 2013: Marty Kaplan, award-winning columnist and media scholar, head of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California. Kaplan’s segment was dubbed, “Weapons of Mass Distraction.” And by “distraction,” Marty Kaplan was referring to the lack of outcry in America about the increasing “divide between the very rich and everyone else.” Speaking in outrage was rare he said. He cited people across the globe in places like Greece, Spain, Brazil, and Egypt who angrily demanded from their governments “economic fair play and equality.” He said that here in the United States we have a dysfunctional system in that we do not take collective action against all we see in the news going on that is wrong. “The streets and airwaves remain relatively silent.” He elaborated:

“We have unemployment and hunger and crumbling infrastructure and a tax system out of whack and a corrupt political system – – why are we not taking to the streets? I suspect among your viewers, there are people who are outraged and want to be at the barricades. The problem is that we have been taught to be helpless and jaded rather than to feel that we are empowered to make a difference.”

Marty Kaplan concluded that a number of forces keep these issues and people in the dark, “especially our well-fed appetite for media distraction.”

And while these messages via “Moyers & Company” fueled my furor, kindled by the Occupy Movement, they did not “nail” the problems and provide a roadmap to change. But then came Bill Moyers’ third prominent guest on the subject, bringing responsible change to an ailing America. What he had to say was the most profound in defining the problems, anchored with grass-roots examples, and called for specific action to redress America’s ills.


         Bob Herbert, New York Times columnist for almost 2 decades, hit the road crossing America to diagnose America’s ills. The result was his new book, Losing Our Way. His appearance on “Moyers & Company,” October 9, 2014, was called, “Restoring an America That Has Lost Its Way.”


“Moyers & Company,” October 9, 2014: Bob Herbert, who grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, New York Times opinion columnist for eighteen years, 1993-2011, as champion of the working poor and middle class; a Distinguished Senior Fellow at Demos, a public policy think tank in New York City. In 2011 Herbert hit the road crossing the country to report on Americans left behind by our economy after the Great Recession. The result was Herbert’s new book, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America, published October 7, 2014. His appearance on Bill Moyers’ program was called, “Restoring an America That Has Lost Its Way.”

Bob Herbert uses the stories of the people he met to tell America’s story of the economic downturn; a woman injured by a bridge collapse while driving home, a man losing his job with a wife with breast cancer, a U.S. Army lieutenant with massive injuries from his service in Afghanistan, and others across the country who “played by the rules only to find that the rules had been changed midstream.” The jobs have disappeared, our infrastructure is falling apart, the cycle is broken of workers spending wages to power the economy, greed prevails among CEOs, and the gap widens between “the very rich and everyone else.” And Bob Herbert cites the all too familiar data marking this divide; the 2013 statistics of the top 1% earning 25% of income and owning 40% of wealth, while the 80% (250 million people) holding just 7% of the wealth. And he blames the alliance of corporations and banks with the federal government to serve their interests and not that of the ordinary working people.

Copy OccupyMov't

     It began as “Occupy Wall Street” in New York City’s Zucotti Park, September 17, 2011. Quickly it spread by October 9 to Occupy protests in over 95 cities & 82 countries,

Bob Herbert calls for a new “Citizens’ Movement” that will fight for the interests of ordinary people to change America’s “cultural and economic landscape.” A Citizens’ Movement must be bigger and broader yet more focused than the Occupy Movement. He likens such a movement to movements in our nation’s past; Civil Rights, Women’s Rights, and Labor. Bob Herbert concludes in his book:

“If our nation is to be changed for the better, ordinary citizens will have to intervene aggressively in their own fate. The tremendous power in the hands of the moneyed interests will not be relinquished voluntarily.”

“Excuse Us For Living” I think just delivered its most important message in its three year existence. I could not myself put together the thoughts and words. Thank you, “Moyers & Company,” for doing it for me.

Comments: Are you “in”? Do we start a “Citizens’ Movement”?

Sources: – and – company

               Losing Our Way, Bob Herbert, October 7, 2014, Doubleday



  1. I believe that Citizens must take some sort of action. At least vote. Many do not turn out to do this.
    I for one have been involved in various organizations through out my life. The last group “Citizenre”, “POWUR”, Yes, You ARE the Power. Be the change you want to see. Serving on our town energy committee. Encouraging the adoption of favorable town by laws to make possible the use of Alternative energy sources. Wind,Solar,Bio mass, etc. Trying to offer Solutions to difficult problems. I even installed a Solar hot water and PV system at our residence. Red Cross donate blood as often as possible. There are movements that exist. Get involved if you can. Take action. Take action!

    • John Pacheco, Wonderful! Yes, everyone should vote. Oregon has a new voter registration law that automatically registers EVERYONE & you must UNREGISTER if you so choose!!! And you sure have paid your civic dues with ALL the movements you have participated in from energy committee to solar at home to blood donor. You put me to shame. What we DO need is a Citizens’ Movement to take some of the power of corporations & banks over the Congress & return some power to the people the Congress serves. Then we can build infrastructure, create jobs, a greener America, & restructure the tax system to redistribute the increasingly overwhelming wealth of the 1% & the decreasing share of the pie for the 99%. It’s going to happen & sooner than later probably after President Obama leaves office. President Hillary Clinton & a new Democratic controlled Congress will make it happen. Thanks, John, one of the most frequent commenters on my website!!! Phil

  2. Phil,
    Do we start a movement or a revolution? I agree with John’s comments about taking action, starting with voting. Until our citizens start participating in the election process, the future for the average citizen, our environment, our wildlife species, clean water, clean air, etc., becomes dimmer and dimmer. The super-wealthy become more powerful and more willing to sell out everything in order to make more unneeded bucks. At some point, if people don’t become involved, the more likely any movement will turn into a revolution. Personally, I think a revolution is both needed and necessary – now! I believe there is no way the avarice of people like the Koch brothers will be curtailed without violence since the Supreme Court has given them the leeway and ability to buy our elections and politicians. Jym

  3. Jym, Movement I hope! If you look at other movements like Civil Rights, it got violent but rarely is it referred to as a revolution, although one could make that case! But the changes were made institutionally such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 & then Voting Rights Act of 1965. And yes, agreed, voting is the strongest counter punch! But I am with you that the disparity between rich & poor is reaching revolutionary proportions. Therefore, it is time for a change in the tax code to redistribute the wealth. This is not socialism. It is merely an economic adjustment that has to be made in the USA every 30 years or so…..& we are long overdue this time!!! Thanks, Jym. Phil

  4. There definitely is a need for changes, Philip, and no surprise to find Bill Moyers’ voice in the forefront of this movement. Though I’ve not watched him much, what I have watched I’ve liked mainly because of the format and the venue talking one-one-one about difficult issues.

    It speaks to me, from back in the day, when I facilitated talking-stick groups in the corporate world. I’ve always believed, if you can come together and connect from the heart, to find common ground discussing problematic views and conflicting issues. anything is possible.

    There is a book I read some years ago by William Ury called “The Third Side” that gave me hope in this possibility and I included his TED talk in a post I wrote a couple of years ago in frustration looking for answers.

    Here’s the link to his talk. No doubt, he may also be right there in the trenches with Bill Moyer for peaceful changes in America, as he has done in so many other situations.

    • Pat, Bill Moyers has hosted informative, provocative programs for decades & I have always learned a great deal from them. Your “talking-stick groups” sound like my kind of thing for the workplace!!! Not familiar with William Ury, but I have his Ted talk playing right now….all 18 minutes!! Many thanks, Pat!!!! Phil

      • I know, Philip, I’ve liked what I’ve watched on Bill Moyers’ hosted programs, too. They touch on hard-to-talk about topics and stimulate good conversation. I like how he handles it.

        Yes, the talking-stick groups in the workplace were really interesting. I liked it and we had some good conversations, as well. I think the key is in feeling comfortable and building relationships enough where we can say our piece without being threatened.

        It’s the kind of thing William Ury describes. I hope you enjoy him. I’d be interested in hearing what you think.

  5. A very interesting piece once again my dear friend!
    I always enjoy your little ‘lectures’ so much. 🙂
    I think it’s important that ‘something’ happens, there has to come some kind of change for sure!
    If revolution is the best way to that, I don’t know, but people should stand up for their rights always.
    Voting is definitely critical, we always vote here in Holland. It’s a great way to let the voices of the people be heard! But, when you vote, it’s very important to have the right information and we all know that this isn’t always the case. People need to think for themselves and learn how to seek the truth!
    Lots of Love,

    • Patty, I always feel apologetic to my friends in Europe & around the globe when my post topic is too much geared to an American audience. “Lectures”? HA! But the topic DOES APPLY globally to many of the same problems, especially the rich vs. the poor & middle class, & jobs!!! And such changes do not have to be brought about by revolution….the American Civil Rights Movement can be considered by historians as revolutionary re change & the violence that occurred. But by & large historians talk about it as a movement & the many peaceful pacifist protests. THAT”S WHAT WE NEED NOW….peaceful protests! And you are so right that voting is a big part of bringing about change, if, as you say, the voters are informed properly, think independently, & search for the truth. I think you & I are very much on the same page politically!!! –Not surprised!!! Changing the subject, yesterday I spent a little time on the run reading poetry by Robert Burns & your man Poe! I think it must be all the reading I’ve done of Just Patty’s poetry….because I have become much better in reciting, reading poetry out loud!!!! Much thanks for this education!!! Phil

    • Patty,
      I wholeheartedly agree with you about voting and getting the required information. Unfortunately, our society seems to be the same as that in Huxley’s “Brave New World” where the plan for the day is to get mellow, have our nightly drugs. Our version of Huxley’s “soma” is to satisfy our minds with a daily dose of cop shows and “Dancing with the Stars.” My personal narcotic is “The Big Bang Theory.”

  6. I can only speak from my weakness as a possible reflection. “DENIAL of TRUTH……..The loss is the disbelief that humanity is based on greed. Waiting for a community of “fixers” never happened because no one wants to believe anything is “that broken”. And waiting for the next leader to figure this out, never seems to arrive. We are a fearful society now….ruled by so much judgement and violence.The disgust of the Republican party and the lies of the Democrats have buried a HOPEFUL direction……….. but Thank you..Bill Moyers, He is the best! If only more doers followed his mindful heart!

    • Bernadette, Your reflections on greed are so valid from our life perspective. Right! People are in denial & that prevents “a fix.” And right, our leader does not arrive because our idealists have been assassinated. Fearful is right! EVERY DAY the horrible occurrences around the nation & the world! I think you are right that any hope lies beyond the Republican & Democratic Parties. If only a third party of like-minded Bill Moyers thinkers could get elected to Congress with a majority in both Houses….might take several elections…. we could then truly have a Citizens’ Movement & take back our government & country ruled by the wealthy corporations & big banks. Great talking. And thank you. Phil

  7. I am not optimistic about the future of this country. It saddens me deeply and the biggest reason I don’t regret being too old to see the decline.

    • Carl!!! Always very pleased to hear from YOU!!! ….Maybe because we agree on so much….such as what you say above. Carl, I can’t be optimistic either. We are torn apart by every interest group imaginable. Each wants their interest to prevail. –But most of all because of the monied interests/lobbyists of Wall Street/corporation/big banks dominating our Congress instead of the interests of the people. James Madison warned us about lobbying groups & Washington concurred as did Jefferson. It just saddens me what our young people will face after we are gone. Thanks, Carl. “There are worse fates than dying.” Phil

  8. What an interesting view Phil! I learned a lot especially about what has happening in US from your post. This is really powerful question and remark by Marty Kaplan as pointed by your post

    “He said that here in the United States we have a dysfunctional system in that we do not take collective action against all we see in the news going on that is wrong. “The streets and airwaves remain relatively silent.” ”

    Although I am not sure what has happened in USA, what the cause of passiveness and ignorance, in Indonesia, as an emerging country in practicing democracy, people were so much into social media that protest on the streets are no longer in favors. However, Indonesians do protest and voice their disagreement on certain policies via social media. Sometimes the protest became world trending in twitter.

    Could that be now people in USA are having too much information and get comfort to certain news that far from reality like those celeb news or reality tv shows? And I think Bernadette pointed out excellent view as well, it could be like “denial of truth”..

  9. PS: Glad to read your writing again!!

    • Indah, Many thanks for your GENEROUS time commenting!!! Yes, Marty Kaplan gets right to the point that we as Americans are, for the most part, sitting back & not taking action. Indonesia sounds similar to the USA in relying on the social media & only some protest. And yes, you hit on it. Added here in the USA we are overwhelmed by cable news. And add reality shows & all types of TV shows from comedies to police & espionage shows, & people get lost & go into denial as Bernadette said. But I found Bob Herbert’s call for a Citizens’ Movement the best idea so far!!! Many thanks, Indah, for your thoughtful comments!!! Phil

      • My pleasure Phil! I enjoy reading your post, it is well informative and widen my knowledge 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend!

  10. You always have such great posts, but you just don’t blog enough! Hope all is well with you and yours.

    • Russel. Thanks for the compliment on my posts. I agree, Russel, that I do not partake of the blogging community regularly. If you can lead me into how to balance that let me know ….with maintenance indoors & out on my 1885 Dutch Colonial, one trip to Europe/year for 10 days, 2 weeks at the shore in Delaware, entertaining the family for 5 holidays, plus social events with friends & family, etc. I limit Facebook & Twitter time to 1 hour per day. And I have my blogger favorites list of 12 websites like yours…..but I keep notifications turned off & spot visit. As I recall you visit sites with a certain amount of activity once a month & chart activity??? I am sure I don’t qualify, so thanks!!! THEREFORE, I post every other month…..but as you see, they are not short posts! As someone I greatly respect from your online work & photography, I am all ears to hear any life advice from you. I am 68 & find it all overwhelming. Thanks. Phil

  11. Hi Philip — sorry you couldn’t reply to my comment on your site on this Changing America post. I’m so glad you enjoyed William Ury’s TED talk and found his message to be impressive. He is inspirational and pretty amazing and I was happy I got a chance to be part of an NCDD (“National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation“ — conference in which he participated in Denver in the early 2000’s.

    His work is very interesting and powerful, like you said. I don’t know why it hasn’t made more of a newsworthy splash than it has. Maybe, the world, and the energies that be, aren’t quite ready for these types of peaceful solutions as yet.

    Great talking with you again, my friend. I enjoy the exchange and your thoughts on these important topics. 🙂

    • Pat, Many thanks for replying here! And thank you for the link to William Ury’s NCDD conference that you actually attended!!! I appreciate your thoughts about why the ideas of his Ted talk have not swept the world & made sweeping strides towards peace. It all seems so simple to us! When we are peaceful to begin with, it all looks so doable!!! Thanks again, Pat. Phil

      • You’re so welcome, Phil. Sorry it took so long to get back to you on that. I like what you said, about when we are peaceful to begin with, it all look so doable! Guess that’s where it starts is with us. Take care and happy Monday. 🙂

  12. Really enjoyed reading that, he seems an amazing man who moved with the times

    • Shaun, Thanks for taking a look, Shaun! Bill Moyers is quite a MIND!!! And Bob Herbert’s book is the best, practical analysis of what ails America & what to do about it!!!! Demonstrations to Protesting…..& it’s starting over criminal justice for African Americans just like the Civil Rights Movement &, hopefully, will grow to represent & crusade for all that is wrong!!!!! Phil

      • I am sorry for late reply my friend.
        Yeah I agree. Lets hope good comes from the seeds we as communities plant for ourselves.
        Scotland just won big in British General Elections. I get what you say. It can take one person to stand up for others to stand up too.

        Cheers Philip, hope all is well mate, have a good weekend

  13. Shaun News, Thanks for the additional comments! Right, strength from our small communities as building blocks!!! I heard! Scotland was quite a force in this recent UK Election!!! And that’s all we can do is to stand up & hope others will join in to make a Movement! Good here! May it be so with you as well! Phil

  14. The title is enough powerful to speak by itself…a great wake up call…

    • Mihran!!! Many thanks for the kind comment about the title & content!!! As Americans we must act…..Some kind of movement will happen soon if the Congress does not act!!! Phil

  15. Read the post again. Teddy Roosevelt, oh how we needja….

    • Carl, While I am I an Obama to Hillary Democrat, I think Bernie Sanders could pull off Bob Herbert’s “Citizens’ Movement.” But Bernie would have to find a way quick to reach out better to minorities. And you’re right, TR could do it just fine….even he had to constantly battle the conservative wing of the Republican Party! I have a post coming out soon you will like on David McCullough’s book #10, “The Wright Brothers.” A great read & under 300 pages…brief for McCullough! Thanks for being so nice to stop by!!!! Hope you are well in NC, right? Phil

  16. Reblogged this on ' Ace History News ' .

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