“Losing Our Way”: Bob Herbert Talks with Bill Moyers about How America Has Become a Country with an Abundance of Wealth and a Serious Problem with Income Inequality (VIDEO)

Bob Herbert

Bob Herbert


By Elaine Magliaro

Back in 2011, Bob Herbert, who was then a columnist for the New York Times, wrote an op-ed for the paper titled Losing Our Way. In his column, Herbert looked at the income inequality plaguing the United States in the 21st century. He noted that there was plenty of economic activity in this country—as well as an abundance of wealth. Unfortunately, Herbert said that the folks at the top were “seizing virtually all the marbles.”


Arthur Miller, echoing the poet Archibald MacLeish, liked to say that the essence of America was its promises. That was a long time ago. Limitless greed, unrestrained corporate power and a ferocious addiction to foreign oil have led us to an era of perpetual war and economic decline. Young people today are staring at a future in which they will be less well off than their elders, a reversal of fortune that should send a shudder through everyone.

The U.S. has not just misplaced its priorities. When the most powerful country ever to inhabit the earth finds it so easy to plunge into the horror of warfare but almost impossible to find adequate work for its people or to properly educate its young, it has lost its way entirely.

Nearly 14 million Americans are jobless and the outlook for many of them is grim. Since there is just one job available for every five individuals looking for work, four of the five are out of luck. Instead of a land of opportunity, the U.S. is increasingly becoming a place of limited expectations. A college professor in Washington told me this week that graduates from his program were finding jobs, but they were not making very much money, certainly not enough to think about raising a family.

Herbert also said that income and wealth inequality in this country had “reached stages that would make the third world blush.” He pointed out that the Economic Policy Institute had reported that “the richest 10 percent of Americans received an unconscionable 100 percent of the average income growth in the years 2000 to 2007, the most recent extended period of economic expansion.”

This month, Doubleday published Herbert’s new book, Losing Our Way: An Intimate Portrait of a Troubled America. Three years ago, Herbert “took to the road and traveled across the United States to gather research” for his book. In Losing Our Way, Herbert relates “the stories of the brave, hard-working men and women he met who have been battered by the economic downturn. He found an America in which jobs have disappeared, infrastructure is falling apart and the ‘virtuous cycle’ of well-paid workers spending their wages to power the economy”—an economy that “has been broken by greed and the gap between the very rich and everyone else.”

LosingOurWayKirkus Review said the following about Herbert’s book:

The author discovered a nation demoralized by economic struggles, victimized by crumbling infrastructure, worried about their children’s futures, and feeling powerless to effect change. Herbert maintains that the country can make a fresh start “if citizens overcome their reluctance to engage in collective civic action on an organized and sustained basis” and “intervene aggressively and courageously in their own fate.” Calling for united action, the author likens the potential for change to the civil rights, labor and women’s movements, which were “led by citizens fed up with an intolerable status quo.” Herbert focuses on four main themes: failing infrastructure, inadequate education (especially schools in poor areas), income inequality, and the moral, monetary and physical costs of war. In the Studs Terkel mold, he follows several individuals that exemplify the problems he addresses. A woman who was severely injured when a bridge on Interstate 35 collapsed in Minneapolis is central to his claim that the country is in “a wretched state of disrepair.” A soldier who lost both legs and an arm in Afghanistan points up the enormous costs of war in dollars and human suffering. Even $4 trillion is an underestimate, Herbert writes, to account for veterans’ disability and medical care. The author interviews students, educators and policy experts to conclude that current reform measures, focused on testing, “have undermined rather than strengthened America’s schools.” Poverty, and the anxiety, grief and fear that result, has a severe impact on student performance.

In vivid anecdotes and moving portraits, Herbert humanizes the many problems he uncovers, and he clearly believes that Americans can, and will, band together to set the nation on a new course.

Bob Herbert recently appeared on Moyers & Company to talk about his book and what he had discovered during his travels across this country. During the course of his conversation with Bill Moyers, Herbert said, “[W]e’ve established a power structure in which the great corporations and the big banks have allied themselves with the national government and, in many cases, local government to pursue corporate interests and financial interests as opposed to those things that would be in the best interests of ordinary working people… Once you do that, you lose the dynamic that America is supposed to be. It’s supposed to be an egalitarian society, a society of rising standards of living, a society of a vast and thriving middle class. And we are getting farther and farther away from that ideal.”

Restoring an America That Has Lost Its Way


“The tremendous power in the hands of the moneyed interests will not be relinquished voluntarily.”
~ Bob Herbert


Bob Herbert Tells Bill Moyers How Corporations and the Big Banks Have Hijacked the Country: The former New York Times columnist says we need to start voting against the excessive power of the great moneyed interests. (AlterNet)
NOTE: This link provides the transcript of the Moyers & Company program with Bob Herbert.

Losing Our Way (New York Times)

Full Show: Restoring an America That Has Lost Its Way (Bill Moyers)

About Bob Herbert (Bill Moyers)



Our “Virtuous” Rich by Mike Spindell

The Rich are not like the rest of us by Mike Spindell

Conclusive Proof of the “Wealth Gap” in our Country by Mike Spindell

The American Dream? They Got Us By the Balls by Mike Spindell

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7 Responses to “Losing Our Way”: Bob Herbert Talks with Bill Moyers about How America Has Become a Country with an Abundance of Wealth and a Serious Problem with Income Inequality (VIDEO)

  1. buckaroo says:

    I have a blue collar relative who would like to start his own business – do you not realize how difficult it is to start a business as a tradesman ? Most of the people in today’s society are seeking work working for a corporation because of the perks. Many if not most of these perquisites are not available to the self-employed because of the tax code. Perhaps one of these time it might be nice to address the plight of the small startup blue collar worker & his problems.

  2. Carlyle Moulton says:

    The US has forgotten the main reason for a progressive tax system, to prevent the migration of wealth upwards from the people low down on income/wealth distribution curve to those at the top. The problem now in America is that those at the top find it far to easy to hang on to their existing wealth and to increase it. Their resources exceed what they need to live by so much that they can reinvest most of it, even with mediocre investments it still grows but the ultra rich have lawyers and accountants who know all the tricks and loopholes to make it grow faster. The terms of trade between the ultra rich and everyone else have become tilted so far in favour of the rich that the working and middle classes have to borrow to live and from whom do they borrow but the overclass. If this goes on eventually all working and middle class assets will be stripped and the people will rent everything they need from the rich with the rent exactly matching the income they have as is the case with debt peons in India.

    We talk about the contrast between the 99% and the 1% but a better contrast would be between the 99.9% and the 0.1% or even 99.99% and the 0.01%. There is a suspicion that the lower .9% of the 1% are in the same boat as the middle class, losing ground compared to the .1%.
    It not enough to restore the progressive taxation of Eisenhower’s time, tax rates for those at the very top need to be confiscatory but they need to be set with respect to the income/wealth distribution. The taxes need to determine a wealth level which taxes wealth increase above that level out of existence. This confiscatory tax level would not be set for those with a few tens of millions or hundreds of millions or even a few billions.

  3. Carlyle Moulton says:

    This Alternet article is relevant to my comment above.

  4. Mike Spindell says:

    Your first comment and the link to the Alternet article sum up perfectly what is wrong in America and I assume now in much of the world. When a few people have so much money that they are immune from most ordinary human cares their perspective becomes so skewed that the se the throbbing masses of humanity as merely peasants to be manipulated simply for their own benefit. Becoming divorced from monetary constraints, in some sense can be becoming divorced with ones humanness, or humaneness. That the overwhelming majority of these oligarchs attained their wealth due to their birth, or a conducive environment, estranges them even more. Thus with full honesty and no irony, Mitt Romney could urge young Americans to borrow $20,000 from their parents and start a business. In his case though it was $10,000,000.

  5. Elaine M. says:


    Thanks for the link to the AlterNet article.

  6. Pingback: Former New York Times Columnist Bob Herbert on How Millionaire and Billionaire School Reformers Are Ruining Public Education in the United States | Flowers For Socrates

  7. Elaine Magliaro, the reason for income and wealth inequality is due to the current tax code.

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