We live in a fascinating time in American history. For almost 35 years now, we have had politicians of both parties celebrate the most wealthy and powerful corporate leaders in our society, and do what they can to make those rich patrons' lives better. From the massive deregulation of our major industries, to the virtual abandonment of antitrust enforcement, to the shifting of the tax code to benefit the wealthy and big businesses, to trade deals designed to benefit the biggest multinational corporations, this country has made life good for the top 1 percent, and abandoned our nation's long-time goals of working to expand the middle class and lift up poor and working class families. The result has been the greatest concentration of wealth, market power, and political power in the fewest hands at least since the Gilded Age, and arguably in all of American history.
Now that the chickens have come home to roost and we've seen a decade and a half of weak job growth and no net wage or income growth for the vast majority of Americans, there is a growing sentiment among American voters to change all that. Economic populists like Jeff Merkley in Oregon, Brian Schweitzer in Montana, Al Franken in Minnesota, Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Sherrod Brown in Ohio, Bill de Blasio in New York City, and Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts are winning more and more elections in competitive races in every region of the country. Progressive organizations are using populist issues and themes to win new members and get traction on the issues and elections they work on. Labor unions are using new tactics and populist messaging to win benefits for low wage workers who have never been successfully organized like those who work in the fast food industry. Media figures like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Ed Schultz, Rachel Maddow, Cenk Uygur, Matt Taibbi, and David Sirota are getting big audiences talking about populist economic issues.
And the powerful, super-wealthy people at the top of the economic food chain have noticed all this populist stirring. Boy, have they noticed. In spite of all their power and wealth, they are mortally offended that anyone is suggesting that the system should be tinkered with to change anything. They are speaking out -- in truly silly ways -- and they are putting their money where their mouths are. The Koch brothers will probably spend at least $200 hundred million in this election cycle (and probably even more in 2016), and are recruiting other billionaires and mega-millionaires to pony up as well. They are spending tens of millions to drive down public support of a higher minimum wage; raise fears about the solvency of Social Security; and -- of course -- attack Obamacare in every possible way they can (including plenty of bald-faced lying about it). And they are gearing up a political strategy to fight against the populists: check out these articles in Politico from Ben White and Maggie Haberman, "The Rich Strike Back" and "Lament of the Plutocrats," which helped inspire our video below.
Knowing that these right-wing billionaires have a lot more, well, money, progressives are going to need to build a thoughtful strategy, figuring out how we can leverage the resources we have, use our strengths in online organizing, and form alliances with new kinds of institutional partners. But there's something else we also have to do: mock these billionaires for the pathetic nature of their arguments. I mean, seriously, the stuff these stunningly rich and powerful people are whining about is just downright laughable.
So, to mark the six-year anniversary this week of the Bear Stearns collapse, which was the first big trigger point of the financial panic that hurt everyone in our economy except the richest of the rich, my organization, American Family Voices, is releasing a new video that we think will make you laugh about these fattest of fat cats and their sad, sad lives. We haven't even included some of their most outrageous quotes, like all their comparisons to how billionaires are being treated like Jews in the Holocaust, because those were things they said to print reporters rather than on camera. But the stuff you see here is still plenty cringe-worthy. You see, they really do believe in an Ayn Rand worldview: that because they are wealthy and powerful, they are supermen who are so much better than everyone else, especially the people who toil for low wages and have trouble making ends meet. Sam Zell says that the 1% are the 1% because they work harder than everyone else -- apparently when you are working 60 hours a week at three different low-wage jobs to feed your family, that still doesn't count in his world. The worldview of these billionaires is divorced from reality, and needs to be exposed as the fundamental danger to our democracy that it is.
This may surprise you when you see the video because it is so incredibly realistic looking, but we did do some animation of these billionaires' faces. All the audio, though, no matter how crazy it sounds, and no cats were harmed in the making of this video -- except perhaps for their pride because of being associated with these whiny billionaires.
Make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and look for more videos about the fat cats of Wall Street, and make sure to tweet about Wall Street whining with the hashtag #1percentproblems.