“The nation is not broke, my friends. Wisconsin is not broke. Saying that the country is broke is repeating a Big Lie.” While The Free Agent certainly doesn’t count herself among Michael Moore’s friends, she cannot help but be intrigued by the speech he gave in Madison supporting intractable state workers and their enablers in the state assembly, given her recent exposition on the same subject. Also, The Free Agent herself faces financial embarrassment she would prefer to avoid, hence she reads on, “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”
Let us blink our eyes at the implication that before the federal bailout (and oh, how The Free Agent hates to find herself agreeing with Mister Moore!) the nation’s economy was to his liking. He goes on to claim that the wealthiest 400 individuals in the United States own half its wealth.
The Free Agent has never been able to grok the relevance of this how-many-control-how-much measurement. (She recently read a book wherein the author bemoaned the destabilizing effect of the widening gap between rich and poor, the timeframe being 1559-1715.) Mister Moore supposes .0000013% of the population controls approximately $95 trillion (it’s difficult to estimate total wealth; this is a lowball derived from the most recent Federal Reserve Board’s Z1: Flow of Funds report); more planet-earth-oriented sources place the number at 1%, or 3,000,000 people, owning approximately 43%, a figure that has hardly changed since 1981. Yet whatever the particulars, The Free Agent’s eyebrow remains unarched. Would Mister Moore prefer a more ‘democratic’ (his ne plus ultra) distribution, such as China’s? The bottom 90% of the population owns 60% of its wealth. The FA invites Moore to experience the relative economic justice first-hand.
But Mister Moore’s point was that America/Wisconsin, and by extension, The Free Agent, aren’t broke because wealth still exists somewhere in the country. Using this logic, The Free Agent owns a Honda CR-V because one sits in her neighbor’s driveway. All she requires is the, ahem, ‘democratic’ means to acquire a set of keys.
The Free Agent’s economic worldview is founded on only a few principals learned at her accountant-mother’s knee: if you live beyond your means for too long, you will go broke. If you make financial promises you can’t keep, you will go broke, and possibly to jail. If you are digging yourself into a hole, you should slow the digging (chuck the Quality Paperback Book Club catalog) and try to fill it up (pick up an extra shift at the mall). If you’re going to steal, embezzle. That one is a bit of a surprise if you know The Free Agent’s mater, but she never condoned theft, so that branch of the decision tree will never be climbed.
Mister Moore, unencumbered by similar moral education, sees the situation differently: in order to perpetuate the state government of Wisconsin’s living beyond its means and paying off ludicrous unfunded retiree benefits, it is merely needful to rouse the rabble to vote themselves someone else’s bank account. In short, Mister Moore, like most politicians, is a graduate of the Willie Sutton school of economics. Mister Sutton, you’ll recall, when asked why he robbed banks, replied, “Because that’s where the money is.” This is a gentleman in whose company you should not wear your good watch.
Alas, like so much we have lost under the oligarchy, The Free Agent has just been informed she no longer owns the CR-V. It’s going to an Affirmative Action Coordinator in Oshkosh.