[HCCN] fw: Amy Goodman interviews John Perkins

Judith Robbins JUDY at ROBBINSandROBBINS.com
Tue Nov 10 18:39:15 EST 2009

Hoodwinked: Former Economic Hit Man John Perkins Reveals Why the  
World Financial Markets Imploded—and How to Remake Them

John Perkins calls himself a former economic hit man. He has seen the  
signs of today’s financial meltdown before. The subprime mortgage  
fiasco, the collapse of the banking industry, the rising unemployment  
rate—these are all familiar to him. Perkins was on the front lines of  
monitoring and helping create these very events that were once just  
confined to the Third World. From 1971 to 1981, he worked for the  
international consulting firm of Chas T. Main, where he was a self- 
described “economic hit man.” He is the author of the New York Times  
bestseller Confessions of An Economic Hit Man and The Secret History  
of the American Empire. [includes rush transcript]


John Perkins, from 1971 to 1981, he worked for the international  
consulting firm of Chas T. Main, where he was a self-described  
“economic hit man.” He is the author of the bestselling Confessions  
of an Economic Hit Man. His latest book is called Hoodwinked: An  
Economic Hit Man Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded and  
What We Need to Do to Remake Them.

AMY GOODMAN: The film is The End of Poverty? And we’re going to go to  
a clip of the film, where our next guest interviews the vice  
president of Bolivia. Yes, I’m talking about John Perkins, the  
bestselling author of Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. He is back  
with a new book. It’s called Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals  
Why the World Financial Markets Imploded—and What We Need to Do to  
Remake Them. We go now to John Perkins, in this clip from The End of  
Poverty?, interviewing Bolivia’s vice president, Alvaro Garcia  
Linera, for the film The End of Poverty?

JOHN PERKINS: [translated] Bolivia is a country with so many natural  
resources. Why does a country like this have so many poor people?
VICE PRESIDENT ALVARO GARCIA LINERA: [translated] I think this has to  
do with what we call the colonial condition of our societies.  
Countries that have a collection of natural resources, renewable or  
nonrenewable, seem to be condemned to be poor countries. It’s  
paradoxical, isn’t it? Unfortunately, colonialism is always a part of  
the development of capitalism. There is an emancipation process that  
happens through the implementation of a different global economic  
order than the current one. That’s why a total, simple and definite  
break with colonialism allows us to imagine a world economic order,  
globalized in a different way than that which is driven by the  
accumulation of capital.
JOHN PERKINS: [translated] What things can Bolivia do, or should they  
do, to bring about necessary change?
VICE PRESIDENT ALVARO GARCIA LINERA: [translated] This is a country  
of nine million inhabitants, where 62 percent of the population is  
indigenous, both in the cities and the farmlands. Bolivia is a  
country with mestizos, Aymaras, Quechas, Guaranis, Mojenio,  
Trinitarios, Irionos, thirty-two indigenous groups and nations. But,  
unfortunately, in the 181 years of the republic’s political life, the  
indigenous people were never recognized as citizens with collective  
rights. Never. This continent is waking up. I like the idea of “a  
continent in movement” as a synthesis of what’s been happening during  
the past five to six years in Latin America. There’s a movement  
developing of world citizenship and planetary responsibility. There  
is something beautiful happening in these countries which makes them  
get involved in the situations of countries like Bolivia, a country  
that wants to live a better life, where 58 percent of the people live  
on less than $2 a day.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from the research done for The End of  
Poverty? That clip was actually made for Democracy Now! Thanks to  
Philippe Diaz and Cinema Libre Studio for that. the interview done  
with the Bolivian vice president by John Perkins, who will now join  
us in our firehouse studio after break.


AMY GOODMAN: John Perkins calls himself a former economic hit man. He  
has seen the signs of today’s financial meltdown before. The subprime  
mortgage fiasco, the collapse of the banking industry, the rising  
unemployment rate—these are all familiar to him.

Perkins was on the front lines of monitoring and helping create these  
very events that were once just confined to the third world. From ’71  
to 1981, he worked for the international consulting firm Chas T.  
Main, where he was a self-described “economic hit man.” It was based  
in Boston.

He’s the author of the New York Times bestseller, Confessions of an  
Economic Hit Man and The Secret History of the American Empire. Well,  
he’s out with a new book. It’s called Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man  
Reveals Why the World Financial Markets Imploded—and What We Need to  
Do to Remake Them.

He joins me here in the firehouse studio.

Welcome, John. Well, for starters, though we’ve discussed this  
before, what exactly does an “economic hit man” mean?

JOHN PERKINS: Well, Amy, I think it’s fair to say that we economic  
hit men have managed to create the world’s first truly global empire.  
And it’s basically a secret empire.

We do it in many ways, but principally, we identify a country that  
has resources that corporations covet, like oil, arrange a huge loan  
to that country from the World Bank or one of its sisters. The money  
never actually goes to the country; it goes to our own corporations  
to build the infrastructure projects in that country that help a few  
very wealthy people, but don’t benefit the majority of the people,  
who are too poor to buy electricity or have cars to drive on the  
highways. And yet, they’re left holding a huge debt that they can’t  

So we go back at some point and say, “You know, you can’t pay your  
debts. Give us a pound of flesh. Sell your oil real cheap to our oil  
companies. Vote with us on the next critical UN vote. Allow us to  
build a military base in your backyard.” Something along these lines.

And when we fail—as I talk in my books, I failed with Jaime Roldos,  
president of Ecuador, Omar Torrijos of Panama—the Jackals go in and  
either overthrow or assassinate these leaders. And if the Jackals  
fail, as they did in Iraq, then we send in the military.

AMY GOODMAN: And what personal experience do you have to prove this?

JOHN PERKINS: Well, I was there. You know, I was with Jaime Roldos in  
Ecuador. I was the guy—one of the guys who was supposed to corrupt  
him, bring him around, and Omar Torrijos of Panama and many others.  
When I failed with those two gentlemen, the Jackals went in and  
assassinated both of them. And I was there; I was in those front  
lines. My official title was chief economist of Charles T. Main. I  
had about three dozen employees working for me and did this for ten  
years, and finally saw the light.

But I think what’s—you know, what’s really important about all this  
is that in this period of time, since the 1970s, and really beginning  
very strongly in the 1980s, we’ve created what I consider a mutant,  
viral form of capitalism. Earlier on the program, you showed the  
statistics of 37 percent of the people in the survey not believing  
that capitalism is working. I don’t think the failure is capitalism.  
I think it’s the specific kind of capitalism that we’ve developed in  
the last thirty or forty years, particularly beginning with the time  
of Reagan and Milton Friedman’s economic theories, which stress that  
the only goal of business is to maximize profit, regardless of the  
social and environmental costs, and not to regulate businesses at all— 
regulation is bad, all forms—and to privatize everything, so that  
everything is run by private business. And this mutant form of  
capitalism, which I think is really a predatory form of capitalism,  
has created an extremely unstable, unsustainable, unjust and very,  
very dangerous world.

AMY GOODMAN: You talk about the robber barons, the modern day robber  
barons. Who do you mean?

JOHN PERKINS: So many of them. You know, we’ve seen them recently on  
Wall Street, the people from Goldman Sachs and Citigroup and so many  
other organizations, people like Jack Welch, who is a former CEO of  
General Electric. And as I lecture at business schools and MBA  
programs, Jack Welch is often held up as this idol. Jack Welch laid  
off a quarter of GE’s employees. You know, he said he was making the  
company meaner and leaner—he certainly was making it meaner—gave  
himself huge raises and bonuses at the same time, turned General  
Electric essentially from a manufacturing company into a financial  
services company, which really was one of the leaders in taking us  
down this course today that we’re on of a failed economic system.

And we truly have a failed economic system at this point. It’s deep.  
You know, one of the reasons I wrote Hoodwinked is because I saw a  
lot of books coming out that deal with what I consider triage. What  
do you do with AIG? What do you do with General Electric? What do you  
do about the immediate problems with Wall Street? But the problem is  
much, much deeper. There’s a cancer beneath all that. And this is  
this very basics of our current economic system. And we must delve  
down and root out that cancer and move into something much better.

I have a two-year-old grandson. And as I look at this baby, you know,  
I think, what’s this world going to look like in six decades, when  
he’s my age? If we stay the course, it will be horrible. But we have  
this opportunity now, and I think this economic turmoil that we’re in  
today is teaching us that we must change. We have a failed system. We  
must create something better. And we must realize that my grandson  
can’t possibly hope to inherit a sustainable, just and peaceful  
world, unless every child growing up in Ethiopia and in Bolivia and  
in Indonesia and in Israel and Palestine has that same expectation.  
For the first time in history, we’re really living on a very, very  
tiny, highly integrated planet, and we’re all communicating with each  
other. Everybody is listening to Democracy Now! all around the world.  
We’re all talking on the cell phone and by internet. We really get  
it. We’re a very, very small community, and we need to recognize that.

AMY GOODMAN: John Perkins, you have an interesting theory about what  
happened in Honduras, the coup that just took place there. What do  
you think?

JOHN PERKINS: Well, I don’t think it’s a theory. You know, I think  
it’s—I was in Panama at the time that the coup took place. And, you  
know, the democratic—


JOHN PERKINS: Yeah. The democratically elected president, Zelaya, had  
called for a new constitution to replace the old one that was really  
set up by the oligarchy in favor of the very, very, very wealthy and  
the international companies. He also called for a 60 percent increase  
in the bottom wage rate, which had a huge impact on Dole and  
Chiquita, two of the biggest employers in that company. They, along  
with a number of companies that have sweatshops in Honduras, strongly  
objected, very much the same way that they had objected to Aristide  
in Haiti, when he did something similar, and called in the military.  
The general in charge of the military was a graduate of our School of  
the Americas, this, you know, school that’s famous for creating  
dictators, and they overthrew Zelaya. It was a classic CIA-sponsored  
type of coup, very similar to what United Fruit had done in Guatemala  
in the early ’50s. And, of course, United Fruit became Chiquita.

So you had this—you know, this strong relationship and got rid of  
this democratically elected president, because he was drawing a line  
in the sand. We had seen ten countries in Latin America bring in new  
presidents who are instituting very significant reforms in favor of  
the people, in favor of using local resources to help the people pull  
themselves up by the bootstraps, and I think the corporatocracy  
decided to draw a line in the sand in Honduras.

AMY GOODMAN: Iran and the swirling clouds?

JOHN PERKINS: You know, I think Iran today—Iran is this example of  
where we went in and overthrew a democratically elected president,  
Mosaddeq, in the early ’50s, and we’ve seen terrible blowback from  
that ever since. It’s, you know, not only in Iran, but it impacted  
the whole Middle East. If we had supported that president, who simply  
wanted to use more of his oil money, his country’s oil money, to help  
the poor people—we strongly objected. We overthrew him in a coup and  
replaced him with the Shah. So we’ve seen the blowback that comes out  
of that. And this has led to this situation that we’re in today.

And the swirling clouds, to me, are the big corporations. So, in the  
past, you had roughly 200 countries on the planet, which a few had a  
lot of power—the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, the United States.  
But today the geopolitics might better be envisioned as the same  
roughly 200 countries with these huge swirling clouds that are the  
big corporations. And they are really calling the shots all over the  
planet. They know no national boundaries. They don’t listen to any  
specific set of laws. They strike deals with the Chinese and the  
Taiwanese and the Tibetans and the Israelis and the Arab nations.  
Whoever has the markets or the resources, they cut deal with—deals  
with. And as we’ve seen in our most recent election here in the  
United States, we bring in a president who is very diametrically  
different from the former president, and yet the corporations are  
still calling the shots.

Which takes us back, Amy, to the fact that we, the people, must  
create the change. This has always been the case. And this is a  
clarion call for us at this point now in history, that we must get  
out there. We’ve got to get behind Obama and all the other  
politicians. We’ve got to force the corporations to change their  
goal, get away from this goal of maximizing profits regardless of  
social and environmental costs, and instead say, “Yeah, it’s OK. Make  
profits, but only within a context of creating a sustainable, just  
and peaceful world,” only within the context of creating a world that  
my grandson will want to inherit, and that means every child on the  
planet will want to inherit it, because I think it’s really important  
that we understand today we cannot have homeland security unless we  
understand that the whole planet is our homeland. Our homeland is now  
no longer defined by the Rio Grande and the Canadian border. It is—we  
are one—one human species living on a very fragile planet.

AMY GOODMAN: What is the burden of the melting glaciers?

JOHN PERKINS: The melting—you know, I was in Tibet a couple of years  
ago, and I stood there with these nomads and looked at this glacier  
that had been down at the road a decade or so before, now it’s way  
back a mile away. And these glaciers up in the Himalayas feed the  
five largest rivers in the world. They provide water to China and to  
India. And as these glaciers melt, the water is drying up. The  
glaciers are melting because of global warming, because of us. And  
what we have to understand is the huge consequences. If these five  
rivers no longer can feed water to the Chinese and the Indians, these  
people are going to die of thirst. And before they die of thirst,  
they’ll become very rebellious.

We have to understand that one of the root causes of terrorism—I  
don’t even like the word “terrorism,” because I don’t think it really  
is—it’s a whole bunch of diverse groups all over the world. But in  
every—practically every case, it results from starvation, from  
desperation. I’ve met a lot of terrorists. I’ve interviewed them for  
books. I’ve never met one who wanted to be a terrorist. These are  
farmers who have been driven off their farmlands by oil companies or  
hydroelectric projects, or they’re fishermen, like the Somali  
pirates, who can no longer make a living fishing, because their  
waters have been fished dry or destroyed by nuclear waste from US  
military vessels. I have not met anyone who wanted to be a terrorist.  
They’re desperate people. If we want to get rid of terrorism, we must  
get rid of the root causes, that cancer that is destroying our whole  

AMY GOODMAN: The new rules you propose for business and government?

JOHN PERKINS: Well, you know, we all know that getting rid of the  
rules that protected us from another recession has helped to bring on  
this current recession, you know, things like Glass-Steagall and the  
banking laws and so forth. We need to implement a lot of those again.

But I think we also need another whole new set of laws that says  
businesses must be—look at being environmentally and socially  
responsible. For a hundred years after United States became the  
United States, no corporation was allowed to get a charter unless it  
could prove that it served the public interest. And charters came up  
for renewal every ten years or so. They didn’t get a renewal unless  
they could prove they served the public interest. That all changed  
with a Supreme Court ruling that made corporations equivalent to  
individuals in the late 1880s, and then John D. Rockefeller stepped  
in and really took things—made things go out of hand.

But we need to go back to an understanding that corporations are  
there to serve us. When I went to business school, I was taught that  
a good CEO takes care of the long-term interests of the corporation— 
the employees, the customers, the general economy—not just there to  
make short-term profits. And we really need to get back to that, to  
an understanding. I think we need laws and rules that say that  
corporations must be aiming toward creating a sustainable and just  
and peaceful world. We simply have to do that. These are our main  
controlling organizations today, and they must be answerable to  
what’s best in the public interest, not just the interests of a few  
very wealthy, powerful people.

AMY GOODMAN: John Perkins, self-confessed economic hit man, he’s got  
a new book out. It’s called Hoodwinked: An Economic Hit Man Reveals  
Why the World Financial Markets Imploded—and What We Need to Do to  
Remake Them.

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