Michael Moore, filmmaker and gifted liberal propagandist, gave a great speech in Madison on Saturday. It began:
America is not broke.
Now, maybe I loved Moore’s speech so much because I, too, have argued that America is not broke. It’s simply not true. No matter what you hear on television or radio or read in the papers, it’s not true.
Most of that nonsense comes from panic-inducing politicians and pundits who represent a segment of the population who will benefit from your fear, from your sense that America is failing and on the edge of financial ruin.
Politifact, the fact-checker, posted an article about two weeks ago refuting the whole notion that states are broke. The article was set in the context of the Wisconsin fiasco, brought on by Governor Scott Walker, who,
started using the “broke” description as he unveiled his controversial budget-repair bill, which would force state employees to pay more for health care and pensions and curtail collective bargaining rights for most public employees.
The article cited five Walker quotes, which are typical of what you hear all over these days:
I don’t have anything to negotiate. We are broke in this state. We have been broke for years.
The bottom line is we are trying to balance our budget and there really is no room to negotiate on that because we’re broke.
We’re broke. We don’t have any more money.
You can’t really negotiate if you don’t have any money to negotiate with.
The facts are clear: Wisconsin is broke and it’s time to start paying our bills today – so our kids are not stuck with even bigger bills tomorrow.
This stuff is sort of like another popular phrase we have all heard a thousand times, sometimes even from the lips of President Obama, who should know better: “We have to live within our means.”
“Means”? What does that mean? If it simply means we have to get closer to balancing our budget, we can all agree. We do. But if it means what one writer cited by Politifact thinks it means, then, well, we shouldn’t agree:
There may be talk about governments being bankrupt and insolvent when what is meant is, “We don’t want to raise taxes and don’t want to spend so we have to cut.”
Politifact demolished the idea that “broke” actually means “bankrupt.” A University of Wisconsin-Madison professor, Andrew Reschovsky, put Walker’s hysterical claims in proper perspective with another point I have made over and over:
“That’s obviously absurd,” Reschovsky said. “We obviously aren’t broke. The analogy to a household is really a fallacious one.”
He said the government has powerful tools at its disposal to make ends meet: taxes or manipulating fees. You could also put off some spending or shift some debt into the next fiscal year — tricks that state budget offices have routinely used.
No, government budgets aren’t like household budgets, something Obama also says way too much. Governments can tax; they have the power to responsibly increase their revenues, if the will is there.
But like Republicans everywhere, Governor Walker refuses to consider raising taxes. In fact, he cut them when he took over, adding to the state’s deficit problems. So, it’s just false to use the word broke. Or, “We have to live within our means,” if by means one happens to mean a grossly underfunded government.
Here is how Michael Moore put it:
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.
Calling the idea that our nation is broke the “Big Lie,” Moore said,
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.
He also made yet another point I tried to make a while back in Grandma Margie’s Magic Pie—you can see how great minds think alike here, right? Moore said,
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.
I had pointed out that I knew people who received Social Security and Medicare—Democratic programs—who couldn’t wait to vote for Republican budget-slashers last November. I knew people whose children enjoyed free and reduced lunches—a Democratic program—who couldn’t wait to go to the polls and punish liberals. And I knew union members—long supported by Democrats—who would salivate as they cast their votes for the very people out to destroy their union.
Mostly because of the false idea perpetuated by the wealthy class, that anyone can be rich and those nasty liberals and Democrats want to ruin everyone’s chance at success and make everyone a ward of the state.
Saying our country is broke is just the latest way of convincing the working class of voting against their economic self interests. But perhaps Governor Walker’s actions in Wisconsin have, at least for the next election cycle, motivated enough folks to work to throw out a large number of Republicans and restore at least some semblance of fiscal sanity without further devastating the American worker.