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 inventors, 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, and the Packers can't win the Super Bowl without
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
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 you 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
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,
The executives in the
boardrooms 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 happier 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
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!”
happening here, and the media don't know what it is, do they?
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 unshakable basic fact:
There are more of us than there are of them!
Madison, do not retreat.
You are not alone. We are with you. We will win together. (X)
Michael Moore is an
award-winning documentary filmmaker. “America
is NOT Broke” is a speech
Moore delivered to a crowd
of 50,000 in Madison,
Wisconsin on March 5, 2011. Also, read "How I got to Madison", a fascinating account of how Moore wrote the speech as a response to right wing attacks, and presented it next day during an outdoor open-mike meeting in Madison.