Dude, Where's my country?

By Michael Moore
29 October 2003

"After fleecing the American public and destroying the American dream for most working people, how is it that, instead of being drawn and quartered and hung at dawn from the city gates, the rich got a big wet kiss from Congress in the form of a record tax break, and no one says a word? How can that be?

"I think it' because we're still addicted to the Horatio Alger fantasy drug. Despite all the damage and all the evidence to the contrary, the average American still wants to hang on to this belief that maybe, just maybe, he or she (mostly he) just might make it big after all. So don't attack the rich man, because one day that rich man may be me!

"Listen, friends, you have to face the truth: You are never going to be rich. The chance of that happening is about one in a million. Not only are you never going to be rich, but you are going to have to live the rest of your life busting your butt just to pay the cable bill and the music and art classes for your kid at the public school where they used to be free.

"And it is only going to get worse. Whatever benefits you may have now are going to get whittled down to nothing. Forget about a pension, forget about Social Security, forget about your kids taking care of you when you get old because they are barely going to have the money to take care of themselves. And don't even think about taking a vacation, because odds are your job won't be there when you get back. You are expendable, you have no rights, and, by the way, "what's a union?"

"I know, many of you don't think it's that bleak. Sure, times may be tough, but you think you'll survive. You'll be that one person who somehow escapes the madness. You are not going to give up the dream of some day having your slice of the pie. In fact, some of you believe the whole pie might some day be yours.

"I have some news for you: You're not even going to get to lick the plate. The system is rigged in favor of the few, and your name is not among them, not now and not ever. It's rigged so well that it dupes many otherwise decent, sensible, hard-working people into believing that it works for them too. It holds the carrot so close to their faces that they can smell it. And by promising that one day they will be able to eat the carrot, the system drafts an army of consumers and taxpayers who gladly, passionately, fight for the rights of the rich, whether it means giving them billions in tax breaks while they send their own children into dilapidated schools, or whether it means sending those children off to die in wars to protect the rich man's oil. Yes, that's right: The workers/consumers will even sacrifice the lives of their own flesh and blood if it means keeping the rich fat and happy because the rich have promised them that some day that can join them at the table!

"But that day never somes, and by the time the working stiff has this figured out, he's in an old-age home spewing a lot of bitter mumbo-jumbo about authority and taking it out on the aide who is just trying to empty his sorry bedpan. There might have been a more humane way to spend his final days, but the money that would have financed that was spent by him on all that fantastic AOL Time Warner and WorldCom stock -- and the rest was spent by the government on that outer space weapons system that never did quite seem to work.

"If you are still clinging to the belief that not all of Corporate America is that bad, consider these three examples of what our good captains of industry have been up to of late.

"First, are you aware that your company may have taken a life insurance policy out on you? Oh, how nice of them, you say? Yeah, here's how nice it is:

"During the past twenty years, companies including Disney, Nestle, Proctor & Gamble, Dow Chemical, JP Morgan Chase, and Wal-Mart have been secretly taking out life insurance policies on their low- and mid-level employees and then naming themselves -- the Corporation -- as the beneficiary! That's right: When you die, the company -- not your survivors -- gets to cash in. If you die on the job, all the better, as most life insurance policies are geared to pay out more when someone dies young. And if you live to a ripe old age, even long after you've left the company, the company still gets to collect on your death. The money does not go to help your grieving relatives through hard times or to pay for the funeral and burial; it goes to the corporate executives. And regardless of when you croak, the company is able to borrow against the policy and deduct the interest from its corporate taxes.

"Many of these companies have set up a system for the money to go to pay for executive bonuses, cars, homes, trips to the Caribbean. Your death goes to helping make your boss a very happy man sitting in his Jacuzzi on St. Barts.

"And what does Corporate America privately call this special form of life insurance?

"Dead Peasants Insurance.

"That's right. "Dead Peasants." Because that's what you are to them -- peasants. And you are sometimes worth more to them dead than alive...."

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See Michael Moore, Dude, where's my country? New York: Warner Books 2003.

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