excerpts from the book
by Michael Moore
HarperCollins, 1997, paper
Millions of people officially are out of work-7,266,000. But the
Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Census Bureau estimate another
5,378,000 are also unemployed but uncounted. Another 4,500,000
more are working part-time but looking for a full-time job. And
then there are the 2,520,000 Americans who are working full-time
and earning a wage that is below the poverty line.
That's nearly 20 million people who cannot
make the bare minimum they need to survive.
According to a study conducted by economists at the University
of Utah, for every 1 percent rise in the jobless rate, homicides
increase by 6.7 percent, violent crimes by 3.4 percent, crimes
against property go up 2.4 percent, and deaths by heart disease
and stroke rise by 5.6 and 3.1 percent, respectively.
Manpower, Inc.-the nationwide temp agency-has surpassed General
Motors as the number one employer in America.
In the 1994 election, more than 60 percent of all voting-age Americans-118,535,278
people, or the equivalent of the voting-age population of 42 states-chose
to stay home and not participate. They did so not because they
are apathetic or ignorant or careless. They didn't vote because
they have had their fill of it. The candidates and the two political
parties no longer have anything to say to the citizens of this
country. The Democrats and Republicans are so much alike, obediently
supporting the very system that has brought ruin to so many families,
that the average; American couldn't care less what any of them
have to say.
22.7 percent of Australia's population is foreign-born. In Switzerland,
it's 18.5 percent. Canada's is 16.1 percent. Only 8.7 percent
of the United States is made up of people from a foreign land.
I hate welfare mothers. Lazy, shiftless, always trying to get
something for nothing. They expect the rest of us to take care
of them instead of getting off their collective ass and taking
care of themselves. Always looking for a handout, they simply
expect us average, hardworking, decent taxpayers to underwrite
their illicit behavior as they churn 'em out, one after the other.
How long are we going to tolerate Big Business acting this way?
Each year, freeloading corporations grab
nearly $170 billion in tax-funded federal handouts to help them
do the things they should be paying for themselves (and that doesn't
even count all the corporate welfare they're getting from state
and local governments. That's $1,388 a year from each of us going
to provide welfare to the rich!
By contrast, all of our social programs
combined, from Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC)
to school lunches to housing assistance, amount to just $50 billion
a year. That breaks down to $415 a year-or just $1.14 a day from
each of us.
So why is it that when we say the word
welfare, the first image that comes to mind is the single mother
with a half-dozen kids living in the inner city? Aside from the
fact that it's racist, it also isn't true. According to the U.S.
government, the majority of welfare recipients are white, live
in the suburbs, have two kids, want to work, and stay on welfare
an average of only two years. These people, down on their luck,
deserve whatever help and respect we can give them.
It's easy to get all worked up about a
mythical bunch of "cheaters" and "chiselers"
out there taking us for a ride. Especially during these times
when we're all so scared about making our own house payment, it
doesn't seem to take a whole lot of convincing to turn us against
the less fortunate in our society.
Maybe we should be directing our anger
elsewhere- like toward Wall Street. Why is it we never think of
Big Business when we think of welfare recipients? Companies take
more of our tax dollars, and in much more questionable ways, than
do those who are trying to heat their apartments with a kerosene
This "ADC"-Aid to Dependent
Corporation comes in many forms. Much of it is just outright cash.
Other ADC opportunities come by way of generous tax breaks and
exemptions that you and I do not get. Still more welfare is dished
out through governmental goods and services at low or no cost.
And, trust me, it ain't surplus rancid cheese these guys are having
to stand in line for once a month.
... we re-elected Reagan right in the middle of the biggest looting
ever of the American worker - we just said, "Go right ahead
and keep sticking it to us!" ' , And they did. And we funded
the whole damn raid.
The most audacious moment for these corporate
freeloaders came on December 19, 1995, when ninety-one CEOs signed
a letter to the President and Congress and ran full-page ads of
the letter in newspapers all over the country. In the letter,
they demanded that Clinton- get this-balance the budget. After
more than a decade of Reaganomics, which ran our deficit up to
nearly $300 billion, a period when they got wealthy at the expense
of millions of us who lost our jobs, they had the gall to demand
a balanced budget! Clinton should have gone on TV that night and
told them all to go straight to hell. Imagine the wave of cheers
That these CEOs would demand a balanced
budget when one of the main reasons the budget isn't balanced
is the $170 billion of ADC they receive is beyond comprehension.
I think it's time to redefine welfare.
Let's stop picking on that nineteen-year-old mother who is trying
hard to get by on next to nothing. Doesn't she have enough grief
without our moral platitudes? I am happy to pay my $1.14 a day
to help the poor. In fact, I'd be willing to double that figure
if it meant giving people a cushion till they find their way out
of poverty. Hell, triple it!
But when I find out that $1,388 a year
of my hard-earned money is going to a bunch of tax-cheating, job
exporting, environment-destroying corporations that are already
posting record profits-then I want to track these welfare kings
down and tell them it's a new damn day in America. Get off your
lazy corporate ass and find new ways to employ Americans, clean
up our air and water, and pay your fair share in taxes-or we're
going to run your CEO and his cronies off to jail.
Orange County is ... one of the wealthiest areas in the country,
always ranking up there with the Grosse Pointes and Westchesters
and Fairfax Counties as the places that have the greatest concentrations
of the well-heeled.
So it came as quite a shock to most people
when, on December 6, 1994, Orange County announced it had gone
bankrupt. How does one of the richest counties in the country
go bankrupt? Apparently the county treasurer had, with the approval
of the County Board of Supervisors and through the advice of Merrill
Lynch, invested huge sums of the taxpayers' money in high-risk
"derivatives" that were tied to the fluctuations of
the interest rates.
County Treasurer Robert Citron, according
to U.S. News World Report, "had borrowed $12.5 billion and
poured the money into these derivatives-financial agreements whose
values are based on an underlying asset such as a bond. But as
the Fed steadily boosted interest rates that year, Orange County
got caught in a bind: it had to pay more on its borrowings than
it was earning on its investments." This spread led to Orange
The rich, unlike us, get really pissed when they lose that kind
of money. (When we lose our $30,000-a-year job, we just take more
The effect of this blowout has been devastating to Orange County.
The budget has been cut almost in half. Schools will have to go
without renovations or new textbooks. Battered women's shelters
have been closed. Prenatal care, police services, and other programs
have been cut or eliminated. The California Angels have threatened
that they will move if improvements can't be made to the Anaheim
stadium. Additions to Disneyland are in jeopardy.
Okay, so it wasn't all bad. You would
think that a group of rich, red-blooded, antitax, antiwelfare
conservatives would follow the example of the man who called Orange
his home-John Wayne-and just pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.
You would think that these Orange Countiers
would take a little personal responsibility for their own actions,
maybe even be a little ashamed of losing all that money.
You'd be thinkin' wrong, pardner.
As quick as you can say "free lunch,"
the leaders of Orange County were running to the state capital
in Sacramento and begging for a bailout. They suddenly thought
welfare was a good idea. They sent a plea to Washington for help.
This many rich people had not collectively choked since the Titanic
hit that iceberg.
So they held a tax election in Orange County. Timidly, the county
leaders asked their residents to raise their sales tax by just
one-half of a penny. That's all-a half-cent. And how did the voters
respond? They voted it down, by a three-to-two margin! They felt
that we-the rest of the country that they helped to downsize-should
pay for the mess they created. Whining and crying like a bunch
of babies, they insisted we turn over our hard-earned dollars
to them so they can continue living the lifestyle to which they've
And, really, when you think about it,
why should they have to give up their Mercedeses, their yachts,
and their Performing Arts Center? They worked hard for those luxuries.
They pillaged and plundered their way across America, so why shouldn't
they have a piece of the cake and eat ours, too?
Without Orange County and its rabid anticommunist
movement, we never would have been scared enough of the Evil Soviet
Empire to support the defense industry that made Orange County
rich in the first place.
Without their backing of Ronald Reagan,
the rest of us never would have had the chance to see our real
wages decline while their income skyrocketed in Orange County.
If the good people of Orange County hadn't
told you to be happy working at your minimum-wage jobs, you wouldn't
now be paying the taxes that they want sent to them!
According to the latest polls, most of us-80 percent-think that
we're carrying the rest of the world on our shoulders. So it came
as a surprise to me to discover that the United States is last
among the industrialized nations in the amount of foreign aid
we distribute per capita.
It turns out that Saudi Arabia-yes, Saudi
Arabia-is the leading humanitarian country in the world, giving
more of its GNP to foreign aid-over $5 billion a year- than any
other nation. After Saudi Arabia come Norway, Denmark, Sweden,
and the Netherlands. Countries like Portugal and Luxembourg give
twice as much as the United States. In total number of dollars,
Japan ranks first.
In short, the United States gives less
than one half of one percent of our $1.6 trillion budget to foreign
aid But take heart, Americans-we are still number one in providing
military aid to developing countries.
It was with some interest that I noticed
an item in the paper a while back that said conditions in certain
parts of the United States had "begun to resemble the Third
World." Therefore, the U.S. Agency for International Development
(USAID) had decided to provide assistance for the first time inside
America. USAID was set up to help the poor in developing countries.
Now it has put the United States on its list of developing nations.
It was an incredible admission on the part of our government that
things at home had sunk pretty low. Might we be getting a visit
from Sally Struthers sometime soon?
Of course, this wasn't news to many of
us who has lived in places like Flint for the past twenty years.
Many people who have seen Roger & Me have not understood why
I included the scene with the woman who raised- and clubbed-rabbits
for a living. I wanted the viewer to ask: "Is this the Third
World-or is it the hometown of the world's richest corporation?"
The realization-that there are places
in the United States that might actually be worse off than the
Third World-might be shocking to many, but these days it's all
Take Baltimore, Maryland. Because only
56 percent of the children in Baltimore were immunized, the mayor
sought the help of USAID. In 1994 the agency took nine Baltimore
health officials to Kenya and Jamaica to see how those countries
have accomplished nearly 100 percent immunization. When they got
back to Baltimore, they used what they had learned in those Third
World nations to get 96 percent of the kids inoculated against
USAID has also provided assistance to
housing projects in Washington, D.C., and has given consulting
services to poverty workers in Boston, Seattle, and other U.S.
This got me thinking. If our own government
agrees that the conditions in our inner cities are similar to
in Third World countries, then maybe those
cities would also be eligible for foreign aid-not just from Washington,
but from the many countries who distribute it. If Canada and Austria
and Ireland are giving away millions each year to the Third World,
maybe they should be sending some of it to us!
SHANNON COUNTY, SOUTH DAKOTA
With an unofficial unemployment rate hovering
around 80 to 90 percent, Shannon County, South Dakota, home of
the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, is the poorest county in America.
The average yearly income per person is $3,417-less than what
one would make in Mexico, Argentina, Singapore, or South Korea.
One in four homes does not have an indoor toilet. The death rate
from alcoholism is nine times the national average. And; Congress
has cut housing assistance that goes to Pine Ridge by two-thirds...
EL MILAGRO, NEW MEXICO
This village of mostly itinerant Mexican
immigrants is one of more than 1,400 such villages that have sprung
up in Texas and New Mexico. More than half a million people live
here, and fewer than 20 percent are hooked up to a sewer system.
One quarter of the people are without running water. Many do not
have electricity or telephones. There are places in Bangladesh
better off than these neighborhoods. These unsanitary conditions
have caused skyrocketing rates of diseases usually found only
in the Third World: cholera, dysentery, hepatitis, and dengue
NATIONWIDE TUBERCULOSIS OUTBREAK
We thought we had eradicated this disease,
but it's back and growing steadily in the United States. As of
January 1996, about 15 million Americans were infected with TB.
There were 26,000 new cases of TB reported in the United States
in 1994 compared to 22,930 in Kenya. Before we lose any chance
of controlling this epidemic, we desperately need somebody's help...
NORTHFORK, WEST VIRGINIA
"The medical situation here is basically
a Third World condition, like in Ghana," says Christian Anderson-of
Ghana-when talking about the Tug River Health Clinic he runs in
this rural Appalachian town. Anderson has been unable to get any
American doctors to come to Northfork. In fact, Lisa Meredith
of the clinic in Northfork told the Tampa Tribune that she could
not think of one American-born physician practicing in McDowell
County. Only doctors from other Third World countries are willing
to come here to get the "right training" for their work
back home. The best news they've received lately is the donation
by Apple of a $2,500 Macintosh computer from the company's Third
World Country program.
The nation's capital is its own Third
World country. In addition to having the country's highest rate
of violent crime and the highest number of residents on public
assistance, it also has the highest infant mortality rate in the
nation. More babies die in D.C., per capita, than in Havana, Cuba.
Public schools couldn't open on time two years ago because they
were deemed "structurally dangerous."
... Corporate Crime-or its media-friendly term, "White Collar
Crime"-causes more deaths and costs you more money each year
than all the street criminals combined? According to Russell Mokhiber,
publisher of the Corporate Crime Reporter, in 1994, burglaries
and robberies cost us over $4 billion in losses, while corporate
fraud cost us nearly $200 billion! Or how about this statistic:
handguns last year caused around 15,000 deaths. Unsafe working
conditions on the job and occupational diseases caused more than
Why aren't we as appalled by this as we
are when some punk pulls out a gun and shoots a clerk behind the
counter? Why is it that when the company that employs the clerk
knowingly has faulty wiring in the basement, resulting in a fire
that kills the clerk, we don't feel the same outrage? Or why is
it that when some junkie breaks into our home and steals our stereo
we want to strangle the bastard, but when the company that makes
that stereo conspires with other companies to prevent the cost
of CDs from ever going down-thus ripping us off of hundreds of
dollars-we don't call for the same swift justice?
We've been persuaded to see "criminals"
as our true threat-and it works. It works especially well for
the white middle class because the crooks are often not of our
economic class or skin color. They are the perfect fall guys for
all our frustration.
We've been convinced that corporate executives
are like gods, that they keep the country rolling along, and-
here's the best part-if we work hard enough, we can grow up to
be just like them!
I think it's time to redefine crime. When
the individuals running a savings and loan loot the life savings
of an elderly couple, that should be a crime. When corporate executives
approve the dumping of pollution into the air or water, causing
untold environmental damage and eventually killing thousands of
people, that should be a crime. When a CEO defrauds the federal
government on a defense contract, stealing our tax money, that,
too, should be a crime. And when an automaker decides to save
eleven dollars on a safety part, the omission of which causes
the deaths of dozens of people, that should definitely be considered
a major crime.
These corporate crimes should be listed
as serious felonies, even more serious than the crimes committed
by street criminals. Why? Because, unlike many of the street criminals
who violate the law because they're high on PCP or are so mentally
gone they can't find an honest way out of their predicament, the
corporate criminal knows exactly what he is doing and why he is
doing it. His motive is pure greed.
The man in the three-piece suit is ripping
us off not because he needs to put food on his table or a roof
over his head. He's stealing from us because the wealth he has
already accumulated just isn't enough! He wants a house in the
South of France. He wants to invest in another South African diamond
mine. His competition has a bigger yacht and it's driving him
To me, that person is a thousand times
more criminal and immoral than the crazy son of a bitch who stole
my color TV.
Douglas Fraser of the United Auto Workers was so stupid that,
when he was president of the union in the early eighties, he accepted
a seat on the Chrysler board of directors so he could be a "watchdog
on the board." While Fraser was watchdogging on behalf of
his union, Chrysler closed twenty factories and three parts depots,
eventually firing more than 50,000 people! Remind me never to
ask this guy to watch my house while I'm away.
The next president of the UAW, Owen Bieber,
was so stupid that, in 1987, he signed an "attrition agreement"
with General Motors. For every two people who retired, died, or
quit, GM would only have to replace one of them. Bieber decided
it was better to decrease the membership of his union and then
have the remaining members working faster, harder, and longer
than ever before. The year he agreed to this, GM was already making
a profit of $3.6 billion.
The leadership of the Communications Workers
of America was so stupid that, in 1992, they agreed to let AT&T
start a "Workplace of the Future" program in which labor
and management would work "more closely together" in
teams, instead of in the traditional "confrontational"
mode. The next year, AT&T closed forty regional centers and
eliminated 4,000 jobs. After six more months of "cooperation,"
AT&T cut 15,000 more jobs. The union still didn't want to
dissolve the "team"- and so, a year later, AT&T
announced it was firing another 40,000 employees! Only then did
it dawn on the union leaders that AT&T was up to something.
Other union leaders have also stupidly
fallen for this trend of "cooperation" with management
called "Quality of Work Life." It is nothing more than
an effort to find new ways to eliminate jobs and bust unions.
In another blast of official union stupidity,
Lane Kirkland, the recently dethroned head of the AFL-CIO, decided
that the best way to oppose the North American Free Trade Agreement
was to do so by quietly lobbying Congress. So along came Ross
Perot and Pat Buchanan to fill his void and spearhead a very public
movement against NAFTA. By stupidly surrendering the issue to
these two nutcases, Kirkland allowed Clinton to appear rational,
and the President was able to get NAFTA passed.
Union leaders are so stupid that, since
the late seventies, they have continually agreed to cut their
members' wages and benefits simply because the company asked them
to! The companies have taken the newfound savings, and instead
of creating more jobs in the United States, they've built new
plants overseas, resulting in the firing of the very American
workers who gave them that money!
In my hometown of Flint, Michigan, the
UAW leadership was so stupid that they actively lobbied the city
council to grant General Motors tax abatements that, over the
last twenty years, have given them tax breaks on $1.8 billion
worth of property. They did so because they believed GM would
create new jobs if given the tax breaks. Instead, GM eliminated
more than 40,000 jobs in that period in Flint-and hasn't given
a dime of its tax savings back to the city.
The list of Union Leadership Stupidity
could fill the rest of this book. It is sad for me, on a personal
level, even to have to write this chapter. My uncle Laverne participated
in the Great Flint Sit Down Strike of 1936-37, which resulted
in the first contract for the United Auto Workers and was, as
historians have written, the beginning of the modern-day labor
movement across America. Because of what my uncle and others fought
for over the years, families like mine were able to live in homes
that we owned, go to a doctor whenever we were sick, get our teeth
fixed whenever they needed it, or go to college if we chose to-all
thanks to the union.
This progress all came to an end on August
5, 1981, when President Ronald Reagan fired 11,400 striking air
traffic control workers and permanently replaced them, an event
unheard of in U.S. history. From that day on, the union movement
has been on a downward slide to oblivion. Labor union leaders,
in the stupidest moment in their history, refused to call for
a general, nationwide strike that would have shut the country
down until Reagan rehired the controllers. Union members crossed
picket lines and continued to fly. I remember refusing to get
on a plane for the next eight months-and having a hard time persuading
others to do likewise. Boy, walking from Michigan to L.A. was
a bitch! So I gave up and started to fly.
Reagan broke the air traffic controllers'
union, which, in their own stupidity, had endorsed him in the
election, thinking they would get the best deal with Ronnie in
the Oval Office! Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Reagan became a hero
to big business-which then went on a tear throughout the rest
of the decade, smashing unions, making record profits, copping
huge tax breaks, and tripling the national deficit. Reagan and
company were able to get away with this because they knew labor
would not challenge them on any of it.
And that's exactly what happened. Our
labor leaders all should have changed their names to Neville Chamberlain
(the Brit who gave Hitler whatever he asked for in 1938). Instead
of fighting back-hard-our union leaders let the right wing and
corporate honchos take our country away from us, without a peep
from anyone in labor.
Our labor leaders seem to have forgotten an important lesson we
learned in elementary school: if you give the bully what the bully
wants, the bully doesn't become your friend-he just wants more
because he knows he can get it! The only way you stopped the bully
back in school was to stand up to him and face him down. Even
if he did end up kicking your ass, he suddenly had a newfound
respect for you that he didn't have for the others who appeased
him. He would generally leave you alone after that, because it
was too much trouble to have to wrestle you down and wash your
face in the snow. It was easier just to move on to the others
who would give him what he wanted.
Life in the work world is not that much
different. When the early unionists stood up to the companies,
it resulted in a higher standard of living for all of us even
for those who didn't belong to a union. Thanks to labor unions,
we have social security, Medicare and Medicaid, child labor laws,
safety standards, and wages that allow even the most unskilled
worker to purchase many products-which, in turn, gives more people
Those of you who like to say nasty things
about unions should look around and see how much better your life
is because somebody else in a union fought for those things. Businesses
will never do the right thing unless they are forced to.
So what happened to our union leaders?
Why did they go soft? Did they get too accustomed to their $100,000-a-year
jobs and plush offices, forgetting where they came from? Or did
we, as union members, forget our responsibility to remain vigilant?
Decades ago, monthly meetings at the union halls were packed.
By the mid-1980s, you could barely get a quorum. Union people
were too busy being stupid and voting for Reagan and Bush. Or
maybe we were just enjoying all those creature comforts that our
union paychecks bought that we forgot to put down the remote control
to our big-screen TV, get off the couch, and get down to the union
In the past fifteen years the U.S. prison
population has tripled. There are now more than 1.5 million prison
beds in the United States. The cost to the government is over
$15,000 a year per inmate.
Recently, private prison companies have
decided they could offer the same services to the government,
but at a lower cost-and make significant profits at the same time.
Today, more than 65,000 inmates are in
private sector prisons. Investors such as American Express and
Smith Barney have already seen the advantage of investing in the
private prison industry. As one investor has said, "I used
to invest in hotels. But with prisons, I can guarantee 100 percent
occupancy rate every night.
These privatized inmates are not just
sitting in their cells watching television and jerking off. They
are working for many of our Fortune 500 companies-and being paid
80 percent less than the minimum wage!
In 1996 alone, according to the Reverend
Jesse Jackson, $9 billion in products will be made by the private
and public prison industry. American corporations will be able
to downsize by approximately 400,000 jobs thanks to this savings!
The potential market is unlimited. As
the deindustrialization of America continues at a record rate,
more and more of the workforce will be without jobs and thus thrown
into a chaotic fall, spinning out of control as they attempt to
save what's left of their miserable existence. As they lose their
homes, cars, and life savings, many will naturally turn to crime-and
thus the need for more prisons!
Because of the eroding tax base caused
by companies closing facilities and moving offshore, local governments
will have no choice but to rely more heavily on the private prison
industry to take care of the growing criminal population. It's
a win-win-win situation as long as downsizing continues as robustly
According to recent articles in Business
Week and The Nation, the possibilities are endless when you consider
the companies already using contracted prison labor to offset
TWA: Prisoners in Ventura, California,
are now working as flight reservation specialists. When a customer
calls the 800 number to book a flight on TWA, he or she could
be talking to a convicted felon!
IBM, Texas Instruments, and Dell Computers:
In Lockhart, Texas, a subcontractor, LTI, has a private prison
build and fix circuit boards for these three computer giants.
In Colorado, prisoners have worked as telemarketers for AT&T.
Microsoft: In Washington State, inmates
package software and other products for Exmark, which supplies
Microsoft and thirty to forty other companies.
Eddie Bauer: Also in Washington State,
inmates sew fleece and Gor-Tex outdoor wear for Redwood Outdoors,
which supplies companies like Eddie Bauer and Union Bay.
Spalding: Prisoners in Hawaii have worked
packing and shipping Spalding golf balls.
The list goes on and on. Starbucks, Bank
of America, Chevron-businesses can't move fast enough to sign
up. And why not? Would you rather pay unionized employees twenty
dollars an hour plus benefits plus taxes, and be forced to adhere
to all of the other government regulations that go with having
a non-inmate workforce-just to package golf balls? Of course not!
Corrections Corporation of America: The industry leader. CCA (not
to be confused with CAA, the Hollywood agents) now claims to have
48.3 percent of all the private prison business. Founded in 1983
by investors with significant holdings in Kentucky Fried Chicken,
including the wife of onetime presidential candidate Lamar Alexander,
CCA has grown steadily and today has forty-seven prisons in eleven
states as well as Puerto Rico, Australia, and the United Kingdom.
In 1995, Corrections Corporation of America
was the top growth stock among all companies based in Tennessee.
Its stock rose a whopping 360.5 percent, and it was the fourth-
best performer on the New York Stock Exchange.
Wackenhut: A great name for the prison
business! Founded by former FBI agent George Wackenhut, the company
got its start in the rent-a-cop business but later branched out
into private prisons. Today, Wackenhut operates twenty-four penitentiaries
in the United States, the United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, and Australia,
with a total of 16,000 inmates.
Esmor: A real bottom feeder, taking the
inmates nobody wants, including an unlimited number of sex offenders
at some of its locations. Already it houses 2,500 prisoners and
is expanding with deliberate speed. Esmor was featured as an "up-and-comer"
in the January 1995 issue of Forbes magazine.
... the '94 election turned out to be anything but a mandate.
The Republicans were able to take over Congress by a total of
only 38,838 votes nationwide.
... over 60 percent of the voting-age population in this country
did not vote in the 1994 election. Of the remaining 38 percent
who did show up at the polls, the Republicans got a little more
than half of the vote. That means that Newt Gingrich has been
ruling America with only 20 percent of this country having voted
for his agenda. Twenty percent!
Miami -- It is there that a nutty bunch of Cuban exiles have controlled
U.S. foreign policy regarding this insignificant island nation.
These Cubans, many of whom were Batista supporters and lived high
on the hog while that crook ran the country, seem not to have
slept a wink since they grabbed their assets and headed to Florida.
And, since 1960, they have insisted on
pulling us into their madness. Why is it that in every incident
of national torment that has deflated our country for the past
three decades-the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, IranContra,
our drug abuse epidemic-the list goes on and on-we find that the
Cuban exiles are always present and involved? First it was Lee
Harvey Oswald's connection to the Cubans in New Orleans. (Or was
it the Cuban exiles acting alone to kill Kennedy, or Castro ordering
the assassination 'cause he just got bored with Kennedy trying
to bump him off? Whichever theory you subscribe to, the Cubans
are lurking in the neighborhood.)
Then, on the night of June 17, 1972, three
Cubans- Bernard Barker, Eugenio Martinez, and Virgilio Gonzalez
(plus Americans Frank Sturgis and James McCord Jr.)-were caught
breaking into the Watergate offices of the chairman of the Democratic
Party. This covert operation eventually brought down Richard Nixon,
(so I guess there is a silver lining to that particular Cuban-exile
Today, Barker and Gonzalez are considered
heroes in Miami's Cuban community. Martinez, later pardoned by
Ronald Reagan, is the only one who feels bad. "I did not
want myself to be involved in the downfall of the President of
the United States." Oh, well, how nice of you!
When Ollie North needed a cover group
to run arms into Nicaragua to help overthrow the government, who
else could he turn to but the Miami Cubans? Bay of Pigs veterans
Ramon Medina and Rafael Quintero were key managers of the air-transport
company that supplied weapons to the Contras. The U.S.-backed
Contra War was responsible for the deaths of thirty thousand Nicaraguans.
One of the big bonuses to come out of
our funding of these Cuban exiles was the help they gave us in
bringing illegal drugs into the States, destroying families and
whole sections of our cities. Beginning in the early sixties,
a number of Cubans (who also participated in the Bay of Pigs invasion)
began running major narcotics rings in this country. The DEA found
little support within the federal government to go after these
Cuban exiles, because they had organized themselves under the
phony banner of "freedom groups." In fact, many were
nothing more than fronts for massive drug-smuggling operations.
These same drug runners later helped to run arms to the Contras.
U.S.-based Cuban terrorist organizations
have been responsible for more than two hundred bombings and at
least a hundred murders since Castro's revolution. They have got
everyone so afraid to stand up to them that I probably shouldn't
even be writing this chapter. I am, after all, one of the few
So why am I not worried? Because these
Cuban exiles, for all their chest-thumping and terrorism, are
really just a bunch of wimps. That's right. Wimps.
Need proof? For starters, when you don't
like the oppressor in your country, you stay there and try to
overthrow him. This can be done by force (American Revolution,
French Revolution) or through peaceful means (Gandhi in India
or Mandela in South Africa). But you don't just turn tail and
run like these Cubans.
Imagine if the American colonists had
all run to Canada-and then insisted the Canadians had a responsibility
to overthrow the British down in the States. The Sandinistas never
would have freed their country from Somoza if they had all been
sitting on the beach in Costa Rica, drinking margaritas and getting
rich. Mandela went to prison, not to Libya or London.
But the wealthy Cubans scooted off to
Miami-and got wealthier. Ninety percent of these exiles are white,
while the majority of Cubans-62 percent-are black or of mixed
race. The whites knew they couldn't stay in Cuba because they
had no support from the people. So they came here, expecting us
to fight their fight for them. And, like morons, we have.
It's not that these Cuban crybabies haven't
tried to help themselves. But a quick look at their efforts resembles
an old Keystone Kops movie. The Bay of Pigs is their best-known
fiasco. It had all the elements of a great farce-wrong boats,
wrong beach, no ammo for the guns, no one shows up to meet them,
and, finally, they are left for dead, wandering around a part
of their island completely unfamiliar to them (their limo drivers,
I guess, had never taken them there in the good old days).
This embarrassment was so monumental the
world still hasn't stopped laughing-and the Miami Cubans have
never forgotten or forgiven this. Say "Bay of Pigs"
to any of them, and you might as well be a dentist with a drill
on a raw, decaying nerve.
You would think that the Bay of Pigs defeat
would have taught them a lesson, but then you would probably be
projecting. You would have given up. Not this crowd. Since 1962,
numerous Cuban exile groups have attempted even more raids to
"liberate" their homeland.
Let's go to the highlights reel:
* In 1981, a group of Miami Cuban exiles
landed on Providenciales Island in the Caribbean on their way
to invading Cuba. Their boat, the only one of four exile boats
to make it out of the Miami River (the other three were turned
back by the Coast Guard due to foul weather, engine trouble, or
too few life jackets), ran aground on a reef near Providenciales.
Stuck there on the island with no food or shelter, the Miami Cubans
started fighting among themselves. They begged the people of Miami
to rescue them off the island, and after three weeks they were
airlifted back to Florida. The only one of their group to make
it to Cuban waters, Geraldo Fuentes, suffered an appendicitis
attack while at sea and had to be helicoptered by the Coast Guard
to Guantanamo for treatment.
* In 1968, a group of Miami Cubans learned
that a Polish ship was docked in the port of Miami and that a
Cuban delegation might be aboard the freighter. From the MacArthur
Causeway, according to the St. Petersburg Times, the Cuban exiles
fired a homemade bazooka and hit the ship's hull. It only put
a nick in the ship, and the group's leader, Orlando Bosch, was
sentenced to ten years in prison, but was released in 1972. Bosch
explained that they had hoped to cause more damage, but, he pleaded,
"It was a big ship!" Bosch had earlier been arrested
for towing a torpedo through downtown Miami during rush hour,
and another time he was caught with six hundred mini aerial bombs
loaded with dynamite in the trunk of his Cadillac. In 1990, the
Bush administration released him from prison, where he was serving
time for parole violations.
* According to Washington Monthly, "During
the summer and early fall of 1963, five commando raids were launched
against Cuba in the hopes of destabilizing the regime. The negligible
Cuban underground was instructed to leave faucets running and
lightbulbs burning to waste energy."
* In 1962, according to the San Francisco
Chronicle, Cuban exile Jose Basulto, on a CIA-sponsored mission,
fired a 20-mm cannon from a speedboat at the Incan Hotel next
to Havana Bay, hoping to kill Fidel Castro. The shell missed,
and Basulto, seeing gasoline spilling all over his boat, hightailed
it back to Florida. "One of our gas tanks, made of plastic,
began to leak," Basulto explained later. "Gas ran all
over the deck. We didn't know what to do."
Years later, Basulto would go on to form
"Brothers to the Rescue," an exile group that for the
past few years has been flying missions over Cuba, buzzing Cuban
sites, dropping leaflets, and generally trying to intimidate the
Cuban government. In February 1996, Castro was apparently fed
up with this harassment, and after the twenty-fifth incident in
the past twenty months of the Brothers violating Cuban airspace,
he ordered that two of their planes be shot down.
Even though Brothers to the Rescue was
violating U.S. law by flying into Cuban airspace (a fact the FAA
acknowledges), the Clinton administration again went to the exile
trough and instantly got a bill passed to tighten the embargo
against Cuba. This embargo has brought the wrath of the rest of
the world against us-the UN General Assembly voted 117 to 3 to
"condemn" the United States for its economic violence
against Cuba (as it has in every vote since the embargo was imposed).
Today the guy in the seat next to me is the owner of an American
company that makes office supplies-in Taiwan. I ask the executive,
"How much is 'enough'?"
"Enough what?" he replies.
"How much is 'enough' profit?"
He laughs and says, "There's no such
thing as 'enough'! "
"So, General Motors made nearly $7
billion in profit last year-but they could make $7.1 billion by
closing a factory in Parma, Ohio, and moving it to Mexico-that
would be okay?"
"Not only okay," he responds,
"it is their duty to close that plant and make the extra
"Even if it destroys Parma, Ohio?
Why can't $7 billion be enough and spare the community? Why ruin
thousands of families for the sake of $.1 billion? Do you think
this is moral 7'
"Moral?" he asks, as if this
is the first time he's heard that word since First Communion class.
"This is not an issue of morality. It is purely a matter
of economics. A company must be able to do whatever it wants to
make a profit." Then he leans over as if to make a revelation
I've never heard before.
"Profit, you know, is supreme."
So here's what I don't understand: if
profit is supreme, why doesn't a company like General Motors sell
crack? Crack is a very profitable commodity. For every pound of
cocaine that is transformed into crack, a dealer stands to make
a profit of $45,000. The dealer profit on a two-thousand-pound
car is less than $2,000. Crack is also safer to use than automobiles.
Each year, 40,000 people die in car accidents. Crack, on the other
hand, according to the government's own statistics, kills only
a few hundred people a year. And it doesn't pollute.
So why doesn't GM sell crack? If profit
is supreme, why not sell crack?
GM doesn't sell crack because it is illegal.
Why is it illegal? Because we, as a society, have determined that
crack destroys people's lives. It ruins entire communities. It
tears apart the very backbone of our country. That's why we wouldn't
let a company like GM sell it, no matter what kind of profit they
If we wouldn't let GM sell crack because
it destroys our communities, then why do we let them close factories?
That, too, destroys our communities.
As my frequent-flier friend would say,
"We can't prevent them from closing factories because they
have a right to do whatever they want to in order to make a profit."
No, they don't. They don't have a "right"
to do a lot of things: sell child pornography, manufacture chemical
weapons, or create hazardous products that could conceivably make
them a profit. We can enact laws to prevent companies from doing
anything to hurt us.
And downsizing is one of those things
that is hurting us. I'm not talking about legitimate layoffs,
when a company is losing money and simply doesn't have the cash
reserves to pay its workers. I'm talking about companies like
GM, AT&T, and GE, which fire people at a time when the company
is making record profits in the billions of dollars. Executives
who do this are not scorned, picketed, or arrested-they are hailed
as heroes! They make the covers of Fortune and Forbes. They lecture
at the Harvard Business School about their success. They throw
big campaign fund-raisers and sit next to the President of the
United States. They are the Masters of the Universe simply because
they make huge profits regardless of the consequences to our society.
Are we insane or what? Why do we allow
this to happen? It is wrong to make money off people's labor and
then fire them after you've made it. It is immoral for a CEO to
make millions of dollars when he has just destroyed the livelihood
of 40,000 families. And it's just plain nuts to allow American
companies to move factories overseas at the expense of our own
When a company fires thousands of people,
what happens to the community? Crime goes up, suicide goes up,
drug abuse, alcoholism, spousal abuse, divorce-everything bad
spirals dangerously upward. The same thing happens with crack.
Only crack is illegal, and downsizing is not. If there was a crack
house in your neighborhood, what would you do? You would try to
get rid of it!
I think it's time we applied the same
attitudes we have about crack to corporate downsizing. It's simple:
if it hurts our citizens, it should be illegal. We live in a democracy.
We enact laws based on what we believe is right and wrong. Murder?
Wrong, so we pass a law making it illegal. Burglary? Wrong, and
we attempt to prosecute those who commit it. Two really big hairy
guys from Gingrich's office pummel me after they read this book?
Five to ten in Sing Sing.
As a society, we have a right to protect
ourselves from harm. As a democracy, we have a responsibility
to legislate measures to protect us from harm.
Here's what I think we should do to protect
1. Prohibit corporations from closing
a profitable factory or business and moving it overseas. If they
close a business and move it within the U.S., they must pay reparations
to the community they are leaving behind. We've passed divorce
laws that say that if a woman works hard to put her husband through
school, and he later decides to leave her after he has become
successful, he has a responsibility to compensate her for her
sacrifices that allowed him to go on to acquire his wealth. The
"marriage" between a company and a community should
be no different. If a corporation packs up and leaves, it should
have some serious alimony to pay.
2. Prohibit companies from pitting one
state or city against another. We are all Americans. It is no
victory for our society when one town wins at another's expense.
Texas should not be able to raid Massachusetts for jobs. It is
debilitating and, frankly, legal extortion.
3. Institute a 100 percent tax on any
profits gained by shareholders when the company's stock goes up
due to an announcement of firings. No one should be allowed to
profit from such bad news.
4. Prohibit executives' salaries from
being more than thirty times greater than an average employee's
pay. When workers have to take a wage cut because of hard times,
so, too, should the CEO. If a CEO fires a large number of employees,
it should be illegal for him to collect a bonus that year.
5. Require boards of directors of publicly
owned corporations to have representation from both workers and
consumers. A company will run better if it has to listen to the
people who have to build and/or use the products the company makes.
For those of you free-marketers who disagree
with these modest suggestions and may end up on a plane sitting
next to me, screaming, "You can't tell a business how it
can operate!"-I have this to say: Oh, yes, we can! We legally
require companies to build safe products, to ensure safe workplaces,
to pay employees a minimum wage, to contribute to their Social
Security, and to follow a host of other rules that we, as a society,
have deemed necessary for our well-being. And we can legally require
each of the steps I've outlined above.
GM can't sell crack. Soon, I predict,
they and other companies will not be able to sell us out. Just
keep firing more workers, my friends, and see what happens.