400 people in this country have more wealth and assets than half our population; that is, more wealth than 154,000,000 people COMBINED.
That is just one of the 'factoids' Michael Moore mentioned in his surprise appearance, and stirring speech, at Madison's Capitol on Saturday (see below).
Read it again. It is a breathtaking fact. It goes with the graph I posted previously, and will again.
Is this really the country we want? While wealth has been flowing to the top 1%, wages have been slipping, jobs have been disappearing, benefits are disappearing, and so is the middle class, and more and more people, including working people, are slipping into poverty.
This is the socio-economic context, that backdrop, for what is occurring in Wisconsin right now. And Scott Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers are proposing policies and budgets that will exacerbate this growing divide, an economic restructuring of this country that is turning it into a nation for the elite, run by the elite, at the service of their business interests.
For the rest of us? - only hurt is in these proposals.
We did not come to this all of a sudden. Some of us have been trying to talk about this, to shout into the wilderness, since the Reagan days when the assault on working people and the poor really began. That's what makes this graph so dramatic - this has been happening inexorably as the Republican Party became the party of corporate America, and the Democrats did their best to keep up.
Part of what makes the struggle in my state so crucial is that, thanks to the Wisconsin 14 (thanks again especially to my guy, State Sen. Chris Larson) and to the indefatigable protesters in Madison, precious time has been given us to discover things we needed to know a couple of decades ago - things they didn't want you to know. The Koch brothers did not want the notoriety they have now; they would rather work under the radar. Too bad, guys, the curtain has been pulled away and we see now who is behind it.
Not the 'invisible hand' of a free market, but billionaires taking control of our economy, our politicians, our tax laws - and not just here, but in board rooms across the world, or in gatherings like the World Economic Forum, or in the World Trade Organization where global trade rules are written by the world political leaders and the billionaires.
Here is what becomes essential if we are to restore our democracy, to take government away from people whose interest is to privatize everything so that they have control of everything, to take our resources if they can earn profit from it, to gut the livelihoods of workers if that helps the bottom line. The sleeping giant awakened in Madison has to begin to get seriously organized for the long haul. It must build a movement. Public sector workers who have seen so much solidarity in the past 3 weeks must now give their time and energy unselfishly in return to hurting private sector workers and unemployed and those living in poverty. Without that solidarity, this glorious moment in Wisconsin will ultimately fail; without solidarity that supercedes the narrower interests of particular sectors of workers, and without a solidarity that gets voters out in huge numbers in 2012 - or in recall elections should we have them later this year - this energy will dissipate.
I think of the days of the real robber barons. I think of how horrible the world was before workers got organized, of the days of companies savagely exploiting workers - 7 day work weeks, filthy and dangerous conditions, company towns, and more.
Some fabulously wealthy would be happy to return to such a world. I don't want to.