Here's something you don't see happen often enough in our national media. During the Overtime segment of this week's Real Time with Bill Maher, Maher took on the right wing's narrative that Democrats don't really care about upward mobility because they're somehow opposed to the notion that everyone ought to have the opportunity to get rich in the United States that was put forth by FreedomWorks' Matt Kibbe.
As Maher rightfully pointed out, no, not everyone is going to get rich. What those on the left would like to see is the opportunity for everyone to move into the middle class. In an age of union busting, a race to the bottom on wages and workers rights with the rest of the globe, and with income disparity increasing and our middle class shrinking, he's exactly right whether you appreciate the humor about who's going to take care of the Papa Johns CEO's golf course or not.
The Koch brothers pile on was enjoyable as well. Kibbe tried his best to defend the indefensible along with his cohort Hogan Gidley, who was shot immediately following the transcribed portion below for trying to pretend all of the problems with our economy started when the "blah" guy, as his former boss would have put it, got elected.
I think Maher should just add another half hour to his regular show and bring all the guests out for questions they get from viewers on line, because this extra portion of the show that's only available on line is regularly much better than the topics discussed during the first hour that airs on cable.
Rough transcript of the first portion of the interview below:
MAHER: Richard Wolff, how do you see the future of the American economy? Wow, that's pretty broad. […]
WOLLF: I think what's happening is that we're coming to a kind of crossroads and I think Americans are more and more willing and interested in looking at alternatives to the way the economy has worked. That's my hope. I think they're asking questions about whether we might not have a democratic way or organizing our enterprises instead of having a tiny group of people at the top making all of the decisions for everybody. Everybody gets to participate.
MAHER: What would you to now, Matt's part of the tea party, right?
MAHER: The tea party I noticed almost always has the same agenda as billionaires. I mean, they're on the same page as the Koch brothers. It seems like a grass roots organization like that would be at odds with the agenda of the Steve Forbes and the Koch brothers. What would you say?
WOLFF: I'm always amazed that people don't see through this. For the Koch brothers as part of the top one percent, if they were as isolated politically as they are economically, being so the tip of the iceberg and everybody else is in trouble by comparison, they'd be in deep difficulty. What they need is a mass base. They need some way to get large numbers of people to allow them to continue to be a rich minority. And they don't hesitate to fund and to find people and to find some issue where they can bring in some support so they wouldn't be as isolated as economically they want to continue to be.
GOODMAN: And it's interesting you use the term iceberg when you talk about the Koch brothers because icebergs relate to climate change and that's exactly what they and others have been setting up, well, people talk about think tanks, think tanks to obscure the fact that climate change is challenging the fate of the planet.
MAHER: I notice...
TYSON: Icebergs only have a full ten percent of themselves out of the water and the Koch brothers are way less than that.
WOLFF: A tenth of a one percent.
KIBBE: I hate to break it to you guys, but we're not actually funded by the Koch brothers, so that might spoil the narrative...
MAHER: I didn't say you were funded.
KIBBE: I know. I understand. But I think that the real debate that we're having in this country is not about whether or not we tolerate people that are rich, but whether or not we're still a country where anybody can get rich. And when I travel across the world, I notice that...
MAHER: Is that our problem? That people can't get rich?
KIBBE: Well, it is. Don't we all agree that people should have more opportunities in the lower rungs of the economic ladder?
MAHER: I think most people are never going to get rich. I think what we need is opportunities for people to get into the middle class. Not everybody... remember, Mitt Romney had a fundraiser at, I think it was the Papa Johns guy's house and he's a rich guy. He made money in the way most Republicans make money, pizza, I don't know why that is, but the guy had a private golf course and his own lake and Mitt Romney said, you know, Democrats look at this and say nobody should live like this. Republicans look at this and say everybody should live like this.
Everybody can't live like this! Who's going to take care of the golf course and the lake if everybody lived like this?
KIBBE: But this is important and this goes back to what you were talking about earlier.
MAHER: The robots.
KIBBE: The definition of rich, the definition of wealthy, the definition of what a good life is has grown over time so that more and more people live longer, live better lives, have more opportunities, and I disagree with this idea that people are losing those opportunities because it's all relative. I do agree with you that there's a problem with crony capitalism and there is this collusion between big businesses and big government and that keeps people from getting in, but when we go after that collusion we don't go after the enterprises in the system that create the opportunity.