Bill reports on the hypocrisy of “justice for all” in a society where billions are squandered for a war born in fraud while the poor are pushed aside. Turns out true justice — not just the word we recite from the Pledge of Allegiance — is still unaffordable for those who need it most. Bill says we’ve “turned a deaf ear” to the hopeful legacy of Gideon vs. Wainwright, the 50-year-old Supreme ruling that established the constitutional right of criminal defendants to legal representation, even if they can’t pay for it.
Watch Bill’s conversations with civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson and journalists Martin Clancy and Tim O’Brien for more insight and context on Gideon, as well as in-depth exploration of current inequalities in America’s criminal justice system.
BILL MOYERS: The next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance – “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” – remember: it’s a lie. A whopper of a lie.
We coax it from the mouths of babes for the same reason our politicians wear those flag pins in their lapels – it makes the hypocrisy go down easier, the way aspirin helps a headache go away.
“Justice for all” is a mouthwash for the morning after governor Bill Clinton took time off from his presidential campaign to fly back to Arkansas to oversee execution of a fellow who was mentally deficient. “
“Justice for all” is a breath mint Governor George W. Bush popped into his mouth after that poor Bible-believing Christian pleaded vainly for mercy before they strapped her down to die in that anteroom of Heaven known as the Huntsville State Prison.
“Justice for all” is a line item in the budget – sequestered now by the Paul Ryans of Congress and the Fix the Debt gang of plutocratic CEOs who, with a wink-wink from our president, claim, “Oh, we can’t afford that!”
Of the $100 billion spent annually on criminal justice in this country, only two to three percent goes to defend the poor. Of 97 countries, we rank 68th in access to and affordability of civil legal service.
No, we can’t afford it, but just a decade ago we started shelling out $2.2 trillion for a war in Iraq born of fraud.
We can’t afford it, while Dick Cheney’s old outfit Halliburton raked in $40 billion worth of contracts because of that war.
We can’t afford it, while the State Department doles out three billion dollars over five years in private security contracts to protect its gargantuan new embassy in Baghdad.
We can’t afford it, in this golden age of corporate profits when companies pay below zero in taxes while hauling in tax breaks from Congress worth millions upon millions of dollars — and, while, as we speak, the powerful business roundtable ratchets up a costly advertising campaign to cut corporate taxes even more.
We can’t afford to defend the poor.
Oh, Gideon — fifty years ago your trumpet was a clear, piercing cry for justice, and we’ve turned a deaf ear.