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 the same wealth as half of all Americans
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 as much loot, stock and property as 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 tax revenue. Everyone ended up suffering because of what the rich did.
The nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is
not broke. Saying that the country is broke is repeating a Big Lie. It's one of
the three biggest lies of the decade: 1) America is broke, 2) Iraq has WMD, and
3) 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 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
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 known 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 who 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 make this happen? 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
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 pilot who flew me here
to Madison today. He told me he's stopped hoping for a pay increase. All he's
asking for now is enough down time so 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 had
to take away his sleep. They had to demean him and dehumanize him and rub his
face in it. After all, he's just another slob, isn't he?
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.