“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,” said Michael Moore at Saturday’s labor rally in Madison opposing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to end the collective bargaining rights for the majority of public sector workers. “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.” [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: In Wisconsin, the standoff over Governor Scott Walker’s budget repair bill continues. The proposed legislation would eliminate or limit the collective bargaining rights for the majority of public sector workers across the state.
On Friday, Walker ordered the arrest of the 14 Democratic state senators who left the state in order to deny Republicans quorum for the vote. According to state law, 20 senators must be present to pass any budget bill, and the Republicans hold only 19 seats.
Also on Friday, Walker sent out notices to unions of impending layoffs if the bill isn’t passed in the two next weeks.
State workers and their supporters have been rallying in unprecedented numbers in Madison over the last few weeks. Tens of thousands of teachers, firemen, police officers, students and families have taken to the streets and to the halls of the State Capitol to demonstrate their opposition to the bill. On Saturday, thousands of people rallied again on the steps of the State Capitol. Among those who took the microphone was Academy Award-winning filmmaker Michael Moore.
MICHAEL MOORE: 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.
Right now, this afternoon, just 400 Americans — 400 — have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. Let me say that again. And please, someone in the mainstream media, just repeat this fact once. We’re not greedy; we’ll be happy to hear it just once. Four hundred obscenely wealthy individuals, 400 little Mubaraks, most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout of 2008, now have more cash, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined.
CROWD: Shame! Shame! Shame!
MICHAEL MOORE: It is a shame.
CROWD: Shame! Shame! Shame!
MICHAEL MOORE: If — if you can’t bring yourself to call that a financial coup d’état, then you are simply not being honest with what you know in your heart to be true. But I can see why people don’t want to even think about this. 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 here in Madison, Wisconsin, the rest of us, until then, have felt completely helpless, unable to find a way to do anything about it.
Now, just like your soon-to-be ex-governor, I have nothing more than a high school education. But, Governor Walker, 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 — unless it’s a palm tree. 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 guess what. That creates more jobs. It grows when we provide an outstanding educational system, an educational system that then grows a new generation of inventors, entrepreneurs, artists, scientists, thinkers, the people who will come up with the next great idea for this planet. And those ideas create jobs, and the jobs produce tax revenue.
But the few who have the most money don’t want to pay their fair share of the taxes. They’d rather invest it in a gambling casino known as Wall Street, betting for or against the stock market or against your home mortgage. And the entire population suffers, because that wealth has been removed from circulation. What’s so cynical about this is that the very people who don’t pay their taxes crashed our economic system. They created the unemployment, which has caused less tax revenue, and states like Wisconsin have ended up with a so-called "budget crisis."
But Wisconsin is not broke. It’s one of the three biggest lies of the last decade. What are the three biggest lies? Let’s repeat them. Number one, Wisconsin is broke. Number two, there’s weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And number three, the Packers need Favre in order to win the Super Bowl.
The nation — the nation is not broke, my friends. There’s lots of money to go around. Lots! 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 know that they have committed crimes to make this happen. And they know — 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. They’ve got their luxury jet that’s always fully fueled, the engines running, waiting for that day, waiting for that day that they hope never comes.
To help prevent that day when people, the people, demand their country back, the wealthy have done two very smart things:
Number one, they control the message. By owning the media, they have expertly convinced many Americans of few means to buy their version of the American Dream and 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 a guy — how the child of a single mother in Hawaii can become president of the United States, and how a guy with a high school education can become a successful filmmaker. They — don’t fall for it! They will play these stories for you over and over and over again, all day long, so that the last thing you’ll want to do is upset the apple cart, because, yes, you — you, you, too — might be rich/president/Oscar winner some day. The message, though, is clear: keep you head down, keep your nose to the grindstone, don’t rock the boat, be sure to vote for the party that protects the rich man that you might be some day.
And here’s the second smart thing the wealthy have done. They’ve created a poison pill that they know you will never want to take. It’s 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! Crash it straight into the ground! There’s a word for that, isn’t there? Terrorism. It’s a form of terrorism, isn’t it? Fork it over, or it’s goodbye savings accounts. Fork it over, or it’s goodbye pensions. Fork it over, or it’s goodbye United States Treasury. Fork it over, or it’s goodbye jobs and homes and future.
AMY GOODMAN: Michael Moore in Madison, Wisconsin. For his whole speech, you can go to our website at democracynow.org.