Reason.tv Replay: Are We Broke Yet? Michael Moore, Rachel Maddow, NY Times Say No. Reality Begs to Differ.

Originally released on March 8, 2011.

"The nation is not broke, my friends," opines guerilla filmmaker and amateur accountant Michael Moore. "Wisconsin is not broke. Saying that the country is broke is repeating a Big Lie."

Relax, America, it turns out that all that talk about local, state, and federal government being broke is just total B.S. or, as The New York Times puts it, "obfuscating nonsense...a scare tactic employed for political ends."

Moore is a bit skimpy on evidence, simply asserting that all we need to do to make things right is to shake down rich people who "have diverted...wealth into a deep well that sits on their well-guarded estates." The Times' case isn't much more compelling. "A country with a deficit is not necessarily any more 'broke' than a family with a mortgage or a college loan," says the paper of record. "And states have to balance their budgets."

OK, but what should you call a family or a country that spent about 20 percent of GDP for each of the past 60 years while raising less than 18 percent of GDP each year? And that is facing a massive balloon payment (let's call it entitlement spending on Medicare and Social Security) in the not-too-distant future? And has to keep borrowing money just to pay today's bills? And has no chance of increasing its take-home pay to cover its expenses?

It's a pretty safe bet that most of us would call that family or country broke. Or something along those lines.

Here are federal deficit projections from President Barack Obama's own proposed 2012 budget. He predicts that the red ink will continue to flow for as long he may be in office.

And what about the states? It's true that states have to balance their budgets each year by law. But that doesn't mean they don't spend more than they take in. Wisconsin alone is looking at a shortfall of $1.8 billion in the next year. Here's what the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says about the mismatch between spending and revenue: "2012 is shaping up as states’ most difficult budget year on record. Thus far some 45 states and the District of Columbia are projecting budget shortfalls totaling $125 billion for fiscal year 2012." Here's a picture that suggests broke is a pretty good description of state finances:

Then there's local government. The National League of Cities is estimating that aggregate revenue shortfalls between 2010 and 2012 will end up totaling somewhere between $56 billion and $83 billion.

As President Obama put it plainly in his State of the Union Address just a few weeks ago, "We have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable."

So call us broke or call us flush with cash. Whatever. Unless you think our elected officials are like Charlie Sheen - able to cure our problems simply willing it - our fiscal reality isn't going to get better by pretending that we're not in deep trouble.

Maybe acknowledging that you've got a problem really is the first step to fixing it. If that's the case, we've still got a ways to go before we even start doing the hard work of cutting out of control spending at every level of government.

In the meantime, read "The 19 Percent: How to balance the budget without raising taxes," "Failed States: After a long spending binge, governors go begging for a handout. It won't be their last," and "How to Save Cleveland: Turning around America's dying cities is difficult, improbable, and necessary."

"Are we broke yet?" is written and produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie. About 1.30 minutes long. Go to Reason.tv for downloadable versions of our videos and subscribe to our YouTube channel to receive automatic notifications when new material goes live.

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  • Nipplemancer||

    as long as there is wealth for progressives to steal, we are not 'broke.'

  • sarcasmic||

    Hammer meet nail.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    Maddow says "Wisconsin is great, actually," with such smug conviction that I don't know how I'm expected to disagree with him.

  • Nipplemancer||

    that's a damn sensible pantsuit you got there

  • Hillary Clinton||

    I'd like to think I had something to do with that.

  • fish||

    It's from the Eleanor Smeal collection.

  • Rachel M.||

    Every one of you would do me and you know it.

  • Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr.||

    It's our right not to be broke.

  • Michael and Rachel||

    We're wet with compassion.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Christ on a cracker. We'll just **decree** unemployment away!

  • Name Nomad||

    People see what they want to see. The country being broke gets in the way of free money, so anyone who wants free money, ponies, bread, and circuses for all just says, "We're not broke!" Denial is the most powerful force in the universe.

  • The Ghost of Albert Einstein||

  • Name Nomad||

    That's actually what was in the back of my mind while saying that.

  • Citizen Nothing||

    Michael Moore ate my bailout!

  • Hobie Hanson||

    For a country that's broke I sure see a lot of fancy cars driving around. With the wailing from the libertarian right you would think the streets were clogged with skeletally thin people riding rusty bicycles.

    Reality is, this crisis followed immediately after the tax cuts for fatcats -- both in the nation and in Wisconsin. You can't deny that. If you deprive the government of a major source of revenue, you shouldn't be surprised when all the sudden it can't make ends meet. It's like a guy who cries poverty after quitting his job.

    You might be able to pull the wool over the eyes of the average teabag recruit, but we in the reality-based community are hip to your gimmicks.

  • ||

    Right, the $37 trillion unfunded liabilities in social security and medicare are revenue problems, not spending problems.

  • nekoxgirl||

    Oh, so all this starving Americans deprived of a European style safety net are a myth? Good to know. So maybe the left can stop screaming about how budget cuts will throw millions of Americans into third world style poverty?

  • Dick Fitzwell||

    Actually, it's like a guy crying poverty after not getting a raise that he was hoping for while convincing himself that he needs to spend more money in order to make ends meet.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    If you deprive the government of a major source of revenue, you shouldn't be surprised when all the sudden it can't make ends meet. It's like a guy who cries poverty after quitting his job.


    How much were revenues last year as compared to 2001?

  • GLUTTONY,SLOTH,ENVY||

    First two are Michael Moore's sins, the last is Hobie's.

  • CE||

    We're not broke. The government is. It owes $14 trillion, spends $3 trillion a year, and can only get away with taxing us for $1 trillion.

    What will the government do to get out of its mess? Printing money seems like the only way, except that leads to runaway inflation, pumping up the debt service payments on the previous debt.

    The government isn't head to the point of insolvency, it passed that point a few years ago.

  • CE||

    Well, actually they tax us for $2 trillion or so -- that was a typo, although the personal income tax is around $1 trillion.

  • ||

    I think the point was simply that (what was the final bailout total? $23 trillion?) the money from the bailout went some place - namely into the pockets of 400 billionaires/terrorists - and if it had instead been put into public works, infrastructure, supporting the education system, investing in the future, creating real jobs, etc... some good may have come from the largest investment in U.S. history. And that the reason there is a huge deficit is because Wall St and the banks colluded with government on the greatest fraud the world has ever seen -- tanking the U.S. economy and a quarter of the wealth in the world.

  • ||

    and if it had instead been put into public works, infrastructure, supporting the education system, investing in the future, creating real jobs, etc left in the pockets of those who earned it... some good may have come from the largest investment in U.S. history liberty.

    FIFY, statist clown.

  • ||

    Shocker -- politics shovels money towards the politcally well-connected. Don't worry, though, the next time will be different, right? Hope and change and all that.

  • ||

    And Democrats supported TARP heavily, including the future Hoper In Chief.

  • Michael Ejercito||

    I wonder how CE missed that.

  • Previously on Reason's H&R||

  • ||

    And that the reason there is a huge deficit is because Wall St and the banks colluded with government on the greatest fraud the world has ever seen -- tanking the U.S. economy and a quarter of the wealth in the world.

    Carnivorous Easter Bunnies ate Santy Claus! This library paste tastes just like peppermint candy, nom nom nom.

  • ||

    For a country that's broke I sure see a lot of fancy cars driving around.

    Especially around the Beltway. Funny what happens when you concentrate control of 20% of the nation's income in a few square miles.

  • IceTrey||

    I despise Moore but I have to agree with him on this one. C'mon Gillespie haven't you ever heard of a Comprehensive Annual Financial Report? The 2010 CAFR for Wisconsin shows that it has 123 billion in liquid assets. It's pension fund which needs 77 billion over the next 30 years already has 67 billion in it. It's the 4th best funded plan in the country. The same thing goes for th Federal government. The Feds have trillions of dollars in assets. Hell, they outright own over one third of the land in the country. That has to be worth something. They have stocks and bonds and who knows what kind of investments squirreled away. Let me ask you this. If you have $100,000 in the bank and you take off work and go on a vacation for a month and still pay your bills, say $5,000 are you broke? No you still have $95,000 in the bank. Google "CAFR" and find out what's really going on.

    http://www.fourwinds10.com/sit.....1299089955

  • ||

    Mr. Moore, you mentioned the lies about the economy and weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but you did NOT mention the chemistry professors who found military-grade high tech explosives all through the World Trade Center dust. This proves controlled demolition and is the beginning of all the OTHER lies. See user-friendly lay-level interview, Face to Face with Dr. Niels Harrit: "There is no doubt that this building was taken down in a controlled demolition..." http://vimeo.com/20574556
    The peer-reviewed nine-author science article is here:http://www.bentham.org/open/tocpj/articles/V002/7TOCPJ.htm?TOCPJ/2009/00000002/00000001/7TOCPJ.SGM

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