Are you mad as hell? What are you going to do about it?
By Michael A. Matteo
As I woke up this morning and read the news about what a mess Washington has made of our economy, I couldn’t help but think about the 1976 movie, Network, where the main character, news anchor Howard Beale (played brilliantly by Peter Finch), urged people to open their windows and shout, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
If you don’t recall the movie, here are a few excerpts which seem more appropriate today than they were when Paddy Chayefsky wrote the screenplay over 30 years ago:
Beale: I don’t have to tell you things are bad. Everybody knows things are bad. It’s a depression. Everybody’s out of work or scared of losing their job. The dollar buys a nickel’s worth; banks are going bust…We all know things are bad — worse than bad — they’re crazy… It’s like everything everywhere is going crazy, so we don’t go out any more. We sit in the house, and slowly the world we’re living in is getting smaller, and all we say is, “Please, at least leave us alone in our living rooms. Let me have my toaster and my TV and my steel-belted radials, and I won’t say anything. Just leave us alone.”
Well, I’m not going to leave you alone. I want you to get mad! I don’t want you to protest. I don’t want you to riot. I don’t want you to write to your Congressman, because I wouldn’t know what to tell you to write. I don’t know what to do about the depression and the inflation and the Russians and the crime in the street. All I know is that first, you’ve got to get mad. You’ve gotta say, “I’m a human being, goddammit! My life has value!”
So, I want you to get up now. I want all of you to get up out of your chairs. I want you to get up right now and go to the window, open it, and stick your head out and yell, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
Isn’t this prophetic? Each evening when we turn on the news there is some new crisis that threatens to make the lives of average Americans more difficult. We have escalating oil prices largely because of a weak dollar that is weak because the government has put us so far in debt that our great, great, great grandchildren will still be paying this debt. We have a housing crisis where people are upside down on their mortgages and foreclosures are at record rates. We’ve seen two and three-hundred percent increases in grocery staples and it has become painful to shop for groceries. Wages aren’t increasing but health insurance and most other costs are growing rapidly. Now there is the threat of collapsing financial markets if the federal government does not ride in on their white horse (a horse that they had to rent from China because they couldn’t afford to buy it) and bail out financial institutions at a cost of $700 billion.
How did things get so out of hand? We had so much prosperity in the mid 1990’s. When George Bush took office in 2001 he inherited a budget surplus of $128 billion. The 2009 deficit, without the bailout (if it is passes), is projected to be $482 billion. Meaning that in 2009 we will spend $482 billion dollar more than we collect in taxes! And as much as I’d like to say it is all about George W. Bush, it isn’t. Sure, his administration has posted a deficit every year that he has been in office. However, it is the Democrats in Congress that are currently in charge of fiscal policy. They send their budgets to the president and he signs them so the blame is definitely a bipartisan fiasco. Our government is like a teenager with ADD, possessing a limitless credit card while on a shopping spree at the local shopping mall.
And what about this financial crisis — how did it happen? Let’s go back to November 12,1999. The president was Democrat Bill Clinton and Republicans controlled the Congress. He signed the Financial Services and Modernization Act of 1999 that basically did away with restrictions imposed by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 (an act that was a central pillar of the New Deal). Glass-Steagall was a law that barred banks, brokerages and insurance companies from entering each other’s industries. It was passed during the first 100 days of the Roosevelt administration as a response to the banking crisis that caused so many people to lose their life savings during the Great Depression.
The passage of the Financial Services and Modernization Act of 1999 opened the door for numerous mergers to take place between financial institutions. It was also a bill that was pushed very hard by lobbyists of these institutions. In 1997 and 1998 lobbyists of these three industries spent over $300 million to get this bill passed. Sponsor of the bill, Texas Republican Phil Gramm, collected more than 1.5 million dollars in contributions from these lobbyists over a 5-year period preceding passage of the bill.
The impact of this legislation tied together the banking and insurance industries to the stock market and that is the reason why taxpayers are having a gun put to their head and being given the choice, “Bail out these institutions or you may lose your savings.”
And since the federal government is being so “generous” with financial institutions consider that as of the writing of this article, the House of Representatives just passed a bill that will give $25 billion in artificially low interest taxpayer funded loans to the auto industry. The bill has to go to the Senate and then to the president.
I’m sorry but I have a major problem with a government that is going to give billions to industries that have been obviously mismanaged. It amazes me that CEO’s get golden parachutes worth tens of millions of dollars when their companies are on the verge of bankruptcy and there is Uncle Sam saying, “Here, take more taxpayer money which will weaken the dollar and cause Americans to pay more for everything but you need it more than they do.”
Are you mad as hell, yet? I am! And I’m not going to sit here and say it is the Republican’s fault or the Democrat’s fault. It is all of their faults — and it is our fault too. If a fraction of the people who got emotionally involved with who won on American Idol or who was voted off of Dancing with the Stars were as involved with understanding how they were being screwed by their elected officials we might not be in such dire economic circumstances.
This election day I intend to take out my frustration on all incumbents and vote against them regardless of party affiliations. I will not be voting for Mr. Obama or Mr. McCain because they are both fixtures of Washington, therefore, part of the problem. I will research my third, fourth and fifth party candidates and vote for the ones I believe most share my political views. Sure, most people say I am tossing away my vote but I’d rather toss it away than give it to some Beltway lobby-whore who has already proven he cannot be trusted.
To paraphrase Mr. Chayefsky, “It’s time we all get mad as hell or we won’t have anything left for them to take, anymore.”
Mike Matteo is a resident of Tampa, Florida where he was a public and private high school teacher who taught classes in economics, history, psychology and philosophy. Mike has written twenty full-length feature films, has taught screenwriting at the University of South Florida. He has also written or co-authored three books. E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.