Michael Moore

Michael Moore

Posted: March 6, 2011 02:53 PM

America Is Not Broke

Speech delivered at Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, March 5, 2011

America is not broke.

Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you'll give up your pension, cut your wages, and settle for the life your great-grandparents had, America is not broke. Not by a long shot. The country is awash in wealth and cash. It's just that it's not in your hands. It has been transferred, in the greatest heist in history, from the workers and consumers to the banks and the portfolios of the uber-rich.

Today just 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined.

Let me say that again. 400 obscenely rich people, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion dollar taxpayer "bailout" of 2008, now have more loot, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined. If you can't bring yourself to call that a financial coup d'état, then you are simply not being honest about what you know in your heart to be true.

And I can see why. For us to admit that we have let a small group of men abscond with and hoard the bulk of the wealth that runs our economy, would mean that we'd have to accept the humiliating acknowledgment that we have indeed surrendered our precious Democracy to the moneyed elite. Wall Street, the banks and the Fortune 500 now run this Republic -- and, until this past month, the rest of us have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.

I have nothing more than a high school degree. But back when I was in school, every student had to take one semester of economics in order to graduate. And here's what I learned: Money doesn't grow on trees. It grows when we make things. It grows when we have good jobs with good wages that we use to buy the things we need and thus create more jobs. It grows when we provide an outstanding educational system that then grows a new generation of inventers, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists and thinkers who come up with the next great idea for the planet. And that new idea creates new jobs and that creates revenue for the state. But if those who have the most money don't pay their fair share of taxes, the state can't function. The schools can't produce the best and the brightest who will go on to create those jobs. If the wealthy get to keep most of their money, we have seen what they will do with it: recklessly gamble it on crazy Wall Street schemes and crash our economy. The crash they created cost us millions of jobs.  That too caused a reduction in revenue. And the population ended up suffering because they reduced their taxes, reduced our jobs and took wealth out of the system, removing it from circulation.

The nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is not broke. It's part of the Big Lie. It's one of the three biggest lies of the decade: America/Wisconsin is broke, Iraq has WMD, the Packers can't win the Super Bowl without Brett Favre.

The truth is, there's lots of money to go around. LOTS. It's just that those in charge have diverted that wealth into a deep well that sits on their well-guarded estates. They know they have committed crimes to make this happen and they know that someday you may want to see some of that money that used to be yours. So they have bought and paid for hundreds of politicians across the country to do their bidding for them. But just in case that doesn't work, they've got their gated communities, and the luxury jet is always fully fueled, the engines running, waiting for that day they hope never comes. To help prevent that day when the people demand their country back, the wealthy have done two very smart things:

1. They control the message. By owning most of the media they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and to vote for their politicians. Their version of the Dream says that you, too, might be rich some day – this is America, where anything can happen if you just apply yourself! They have conveniently provided you with believable examples to show you how a poor boy can become a rich man, how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president, how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. They will play these stories for you over and over again all day long so that the last thing you will want to do is upset the apple cart -- because you -- yes, you, too! -- might be rich/president/an Oscar-winner some day! The message is clear: keep your head down, your nose to the grindstone, don't rock the boat and be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day.

2. They have created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take. It is their version of mutually assured destruction. And when they threatened to release this weapon of mass economic annihilation in September of 2008, we blinked. As the economy and the stock market went into a tailspin, and the banks were caught conducting a worldwide Ponzi scheme, Wall Street issued this threat: Either hand over trillions of dollars from the American taxpayers or we will crash this economy straight into the ground. Fork it over or it's Goodbye savings accounts. Goodbye pensions. Goodbye United States Treasury. Goodbye jobs and homes and future. It was friggin' awesome and it scared the shit out of everyone. "Here! Take our money! We don't care. We'll even print more for you! Just take it! But, please, leave our lives alone, PLEASE!"

The executives in the board rooms and hedge funds could not contain their laughter, their glee, and within three months they were writing each other huge bonus checks and marveling at how perfectly they had played a nation full of suckers. Millions lost their jobs anyway, and millions lost their homes. But there was no revolt (see #1).

Until now. On Wisconsin! Never has a Michigander been more happy to share a big, great lake with you! You have aroused the sleeping giant know as the working people of the United States of America. Right now the earth is shaking and the ground is shifting under the feet of those who are in charge. Your message has inspired people in all 50 states and that message is: WE HAVE HAD IT! We reject anyone tells us America is broke and broken. It's just the opposite! We are rich with talent and ideas and hard work and, yes, love. Love and compassion toward those who have, through no fault of their own, ended up as the least among us. But they still crave what we all crave: Our country back! Our democracy back! Our good name back! The United States of America. NOT the Corporate States of America. The United States of America!

So how do we get this? Well, we do it with a little bit of Egypt here, a little bit of Madison there. And let us pause for a moment and remember that it was a poor man with a fruit stand in Tunisia who gave his life so that the world might focus its attention on how a government run by billionaires for billionaires is an affront to freedom and morality and humanity.

Thank you, Wisconsin. You have made people realize this was our last best chance to grab the final thread of what was left of who we are as Americans. For three weeks you have stood in the cold, slept on the floor, skipped out of town to Illinois -- whatever it took, you have done it, and one thing is for certain: Madison is only the beginning. The smug rich have overplayed their hand. They couldn't have just been content with the money they raided from the treasury. They couldn't be satiated by simply removing millions of jobs and shipping them overseas to exploit the poor elsewhere. No, they had to have more – something more than all the riches in the world. They had to have our soul. They had to strip us of our dignity. They had to shut us up and shut us down so that we could not even sit at a table with them and bargain about simple things like classroom size or bulletproof vests for everyone on the police force or letting a pilot just get a few extra hours sleep so he or she can do their job -- their $19,000 a year job. That's how much some rookie pilots on commuter airlines make, maybe even the rookie pilots flying people here to Madison. But he's stopped trying to get better pay. All he asks is that he doesn't have to sleep in his car between shifts at O'Hare airport. That's how despicably low we have sunk. The wealthy couldn't be content with just paying this man $19,000 a year. They wanted to take away his sleep. They wanted to demean and dehumanize him. After all, he's just another slob.

And that, my friends, is Corporate America's fatal mistake. But trying to destroy us they have given birth to a movement -- a movement that is becoming a massive, nonviolent revolt across the country. We all knew there had to be a breaking point some day, and that point is upon us. Many people in the media don't understand this. They say they were caught off guard about Egypt, never saw it coming. Now they act surprised and flummoxed about why so many hundreds of thousands have come to Madison over the last three weeks during brutal winter weather. "Why are they all standing out there in the cold? I mean there was that election in November and that was supposed to be that!

"There's something happening here, and you don't know what it is, do you...?"

America ain't broke! The only thing that's broke is the moral compass of the rulers. And we aim to fix that compass and steer the ship ourselves from now on. Never forget, as long as that Constitution of ours still stands, it's one person, one vote, and it's the thing the rich hate most about America -- because even though they seem to hold all the money and all the cards, they begrudgingly know this one unshakeable basic fact: There are more of us than there are of them!

Madison, do not retreat.  We are with you. We will win together.


Follow Michael Moore on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MMFlint

Speech delivered at Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, March 5, 2011America is not broke. Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you'll give up your pension, cut your wages, and ...
Speech delivered at Wisconsin Capitol in Madison, March 5, 2011America is not broke. Contrary to what those in power would like you to believe so that you'll give up your pension, cut your wages, and ...
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Linda Herzog   1 hour ago (9:37 AM)
It is no coincidenc­e that the redistribu­tion of the nations wealth occuring since the early 1970's parralels the degration of our public school system. Knowledge is power. Teacher tenure after two years is rediculous­. If our teachers are qualified why is there not a single state were even 40 percent of the students are proficient in english and math? To take back our democracy lets begin by teaching our children. Volunter and tutor the children now. If the teachers are unable then we must step in and do it ourselves. An educated public is a strong public. We all have something to offer!
reader110   1 hour ago (9:47 AM)
Exactly. And if you want to understand exactly how bad the education system in this country is, just read the comments on HuffPo.

The problem is, the people in power here in America the Oligarchy don't want educated constituen­ts. It's easier to convince the stupid.
dgmeansit   1 hour ago (9:27 AM)
Of course America is not broke! If we were, then perhaps we would stop incarcerat­ing people for possession of small amounts of marijuana at a cost of roughly $30,000 per year. Removing them from whatever position they previously served in their community, and stopping the flow of whatever taxes they may have been paying prior to serving their time in one of our many many prisons.

If we were really broke, marijuana would be legal, noone would be arrested for it, and it would be providing this country income via taxes. It would also create brand new employment opportunit­ies for thousands of workers and entreprene­urs.

So, I don't care what our Govt says. We are clearly not broke - not even close! The billions of dollars per year that is spent to fund the DEA is still in place - for example. I think most of us would prefer that money go towards rebuilding this countries infra-stru­cture, towards caring for the sick that can't currently afford proper care, and perhaps even some of it could instead go towards paying for education.

Am I just dreaming or do my words make sense to anyone out there?
judow   2 hours ago (9:13 AM)
400 people own half the wealth in this country and they bought our government­, the rest of us don't matter until we remind them how many of us there are
ROBLEE111   1 hour ago (9:29 AM)
Why don't you go to work harder and try to be one of 400?
judow   1 hour ago (9:39 AM)
how do you know i'm not?
Chockolate   56 minutes ago (10:00 AM)
Since when do bankers work hard?
sgc27   6 minutes ago (10:51 AM)
No they don't. That is not what the article said nor the link that supports what it actually did say.
Empower286   2 hours ago (8:48 AM)
Correct, people forget that our Debt/GNP was 120% after WWII --it took 50 years to pay off but we did and boomed in the interim. For that matter Japan has had a 200% Debt for the past 20 years.

If I wanted to destroy every social program going back to FDR I would change the federal income tax brackets to benefit the wealthy, run up the national debt for years to pay for them, then poor-mouth to cut programs. At the end of the day the wealthy would be wealthier and you can blame social programs for the debt.

Wait, that's exactly what Reagan-Bus­h-Bush did, they are responsibl­e for 90% of the national debt, more if you count the economic bailouts Obama was forced to spend to avoid disaster.

Just reinstate sensible regulation to prevent the massive racketeeri­ng by corporatio­ns and Wall Street and reinstate pre-Reagan tax brackets to amortize the national debt. You don't want to penalize entreprene­urs but get rid of the the inherited and game-the-s­ystem thieves and, after the first couple of mansions they are just using income to keep score of their success anyhow.
BackOfTheClass   3 hours ago (7:51 AM)
Only the bailouts of 2008, huh? None of the subsequent giveaways by the Obama administra­tion mentioned. No acknowledg­ement of public employee union featherbed­ding. Are you really concerned with wealth disparity or are just engaging in partisanis­m?
kingerik   3 hours ago (7:41 AM)
Many of these liberal ideas make little sense..Let­'s look at "taxing the corporatio­ns a much higher rate"

Ok, so tomorrow we slap a 70% corporate tax on GM and Ford.. That will help them grow, create jobs, and build the economy? That will inspire new corporatio­ns to grow in America? That will help them compete with foreign auto makers?

That will help them pay your union buddies high salaries and lifelong pensions?

Considerin­g many public unions have their pensions tied up in baskets of mutual stocks, will driving down the stock price and lowering dividends help retirees?

If taxes are raised against American corporatio­ns they will simply pass that tax along to the customers in the form of higher prices and more and more Americans will choose the foreign product. That equals no jobs, no pensions. no tax money at all.
Chockolate   54 minutes ago (10:02 AM)
Why not simply get rid of tax breaks for those who are already rich?
dobermanmacleod   4 hours ago (7:20 AM)
What isn't widely known yet is that a factory in New Hampshire is producing the "E-Cat" that produces cheap clean and abundant energy for less than 1 cent per kilowatt hour. http://new­energytime­s.com/v2/s­r/RossiECa­t/RossiECa­tPortal.sh­tml In other words, you are about to see energy prices and energy assets plummet as the realizatio­n hits the market that all other forms of energy production will shortly be obsolete.

This will have a profound effect upon US debt, the world economy, and particular­ly human demographi­cs, as we will see unlimited water from desalinati­on, virtually unlimited clean water, decentrali­zed sewage, heating, cooling, and electricit­y. Mr Moore is correct, the US is not broke, but he doesn't realize (hardly anybody does yet) the paradigm shift that will turn upside down the current economic system.
beerbagger   5 hours ago (5:47 AM)
Not broke... but feeling backed into cornered. Thankfully­, nothing incites like having less or worse options.
chris87654   8 hours ago (2:57 AM)
Thanks Michael. You led up to, but did not quite say what I've been saying. Corporatio­ns had record profits because schlepps like me NEED to buy stuff. Those who benefited from these record profits skated off without paying 3% more tax because Republican­s did the ONE thing they set out to do - extend Bush cuts to the uppers - it's ironic that those who whined about TARP, stimulus, etc didn't want some of that money came back in fed tax - they wanted the cuts extended because Obama didn't. I wish I made enough money to pay more income tax (the more I make, the more money I have even AFTER paying tax), but I don't so states are going to cut budgets for schools, roads, and all else we've got in this country. They've sucked money from the nation and will put it in savings - money does not "trickle down" (the only reason Repubs gave to extend the cuts) - it flows up when people are working...­. and from there you said it all.
copaceticanarchist   9 hours ago (2:03 AM)
The government is supposed to listen to the people. This is a breakdown in fundamenta­l purpose for government­. Apathy and DC partisan time wasting are tactics to disengage the public from the process through slow politics and confusing focus. Whether you are on the right or the left its time to become politicall­y active and get America back on track to benefiting the people. Its been too long that our choices have been up to the wrong people and America needs the voices of its people to speak out against the corruption our country.
Jean Clelland-Morin   9 hours ago (2:01 AM)
Wonder when the working-cl­ass will vote to make the work-ethic myth a reality? We let Special-In­terest propaganda manipulate us and exploit us. We all know that obscene wealth comes from playing the corrupt, convoluted tax-econom­ic system rather than from hard work. We let it happen by not paying attention. // jean Clelland-M­orin
Katherine Hompes   9 hours ago (1:35 AM)
Robert G Ingersoll: "As people become more intelligen­t they care less for preachers and more for teachers"

What does this say about the current state of American intelligen­ce?
tantanmen4kara   9 hours ago (1:54 AM)
These would be the teachers whose kids in the 8th grade are reading at a 35% proficienc­y?
Bill Liebler   9 hours ago (1:29 AM)
I find it ironic coming form Moore - who has a net worth that is huge - heard $50M no idea if that is true or not, but I'm guessing that doesn't put him in the top 400 - this statement that America is not broke. While there may be some truth that some American's aren't broke, the Federal Gov't and many States are. Trillions in debt, unfunded liabilitie­s, and guarantees for mortgages and pensions. I do agree that the Wall Street boys held the Fed's hostage and they were stupid enough to handover trillions in bailouts, but the other big winners in that deal was the Unions - what % of GM did the unions get and what % did the bond holders get, many of whom were not rich Wall Street types? Moore is positionin­g his next great movie I'm sure, but I know when his lips are moving he is either eating or misstating reality. America needs to wake up to the linkage between Wall Street and DC - and end the corruption­, but almost everything Moore supports only makes the problem worse, not better.
Chockolate   52 minutes ago (10:04 AM)
Would you listen to Moore if he was broke?
chris722   18 minutes ago (10:39 AM)
no ... He wouldn't
stan malec   10 hours ago (1:21 AM)
Did not Obama say all that, So when do we tax the 400, when do we GST it, HST, when do we get our money back to play with and grow with in our own country.
tantanmen4kara   11 hours ago (11:46 PM)
Saying America is not broke is like saying the family that is up to its neck in bills and going deeper into debt each month is not broke because their neighbors are rich. Doesn't matter how much money there is if the one that has to pay the bills (governmen­t) is spending more than it takes in. Want to be like Greece? Portugal? Ireland? Get out of denial and realize there IS a financial crisis and it is not going to be resolved easily or quickly.
Curtis Collins   11 hours ago (11:53 PM)
Productivi­ty is the real source of wealth. Paper money and electronic money is the measure of that wealth, it's just a tool for trade. The bankers created a ponzi scheme and sucked all of the money into their offshore bank accounts. So he is right. The REAL wealth is still here. If you remove the Federal Reserve and wipe out all the debt and start over then the problem is solved. The debt is a scam, we do not owe it.
Jeremy Whooten   10 hours ago (1:26 AM)
You're simply wrong, Curtis. We owe China trillions. That's trillions with a T.
tantanmen4kara   9 hours ago (1:57 AM)
"We do not owe it"??? That really is one of the least intelligen­t things I've seen posted. Nobody on either side of the argument is trying to say we don't owe it. It's a shame, too. Your post started out with such promise. "Productiv­ity is the real source of wealth." At least you had one accurate point.
greevous   2 hours ago (9:16 AM)
"We do not owe it."

Of course we do. You cannot say "this game is fixed" and walk away from the poker table without consequenc­es, even if the game _is_ fixed. If the game is fixed, you simply choose not to play.

Let's say you and I agree that shiny gray rocks are worth two chickens or one hour's labor. Let us further say you and I agree that I can borrow some of your shiny gray rocks to build a house. Let us further say that your terms are that I must pay back twice as many shiny gray rocks as I borrowed. I want the house, so I foolishly agree and take your rocks. I build my house, and then cry "Wait, it's not fair, your terms are too greedy!" Do I no longer owe the rocks? Of course I do!! And of course you are perfectly justified to use physical force to extract either those rocks, or an equivalent amount of labor from me.

The way to avoid being tangled up in the games of crooks is to avoid crooks in the first place.
Empower286   2 hours ago (8:59 AM)
It's more like saying the family that is up to its neck in bills and going deeper into debt each month but some family members have drawers full of gold and only pay as much towards the bills as the kid with the paper route.

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