As the Occupy Wall Street movement heads into its fourth month (!!!!) America continues to struggle with the problematic issue of Michael Moore’s personal wealth. Just kidding. No one cares. Except Piers Morgan. And Michael Moore himself. Which is why when Michael Moore appeared on Piers Morgan Tonight last night for the second time in as many months to discuss, I don’t know, whatever Michael Moore even discusses these days, Piers refused to let him off the hook about his income. Good. I mean, I really don’t know why any one talk show would need to interview Michael Moore twice in two months, but if you are going to interview him, and he’s going to be dodgy and disingenuous in his first appearance about your mildly but genuinely relevant questions about his personal wealth, then when you have him back on one month later for whatever reason, you should hold him accountable. (Although, Piers keeps talking about how it was a “big deal” that Michael Moore evaded his questions last time, and quite frankly, it is hard to imagine anything that happens on Piers Morgan Tonight being a “big deal.”) Anyway, Michael Moore continues to be vague and deflective and shifty and flop-sweaty about the whole thing, but he does, for the first time so far in this Important National Debate come somewhere close to something that seems kind of like the truth:

Almost! He almost managed to bring himself to say “Yes, I am very rich and that doesn’t matter because I am still a good person working particularly hard to make the world a better place for people less fortunate than me.” That’s all he needs to say and he just can’t do it, but inch by inch he is going to crawl his way over the field of metaphorical broken glass that is the result of his self-perception panes coming into contact with his actual reality rocks. Like, he is willing to admit that his films have made $500,000,000 which is SO MANY $$$$. But then he says that he didn’t take a paycheck for Bowling for Columbine. Well, uh, I mean, come on, Michael Moore. You know who doesn’t take money for the work they do? FUCKING RICH PEOPLE! You have to be able to afford to not take a paycheck before you’re going to not take a paycheck. (See also: the time that Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit took a symbolic one dollar salary for the entire year of 2009 but also earned a 16.7 million dollar bonus, so.)

He also talks about how some years he’s in the 1% but other years he’s not. How does that work? If what you are saying is that some years you make MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS OF DOLLARS and then other years your projects are in mid-stages of development and it’s going to take another year before you get the next round of MILLIONS UPON MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, then let’s just round those numbers off and agree that you’re in the 1% at all times. The truth of the matter is that myself, as a midlist pop-culture blogger on the Internet am probably in the 5% or 10%. Lord knows I don’t live above a BABY GAP, but I am acknowledging the fact that compared to a lot of people, I’m doing fine. And I bet a bunch of the people who read this website are in a similar situation and/or elementary school.

Which brings us to Michael Moore’s final point about how the 99%/1% split is more symbolic than anything and it doesn’t come down to one individual’s personal wealth, but is about the systems that create inequality, and anyone who has money but is willing to take a tax increase and/or dedicate some of that money towards improving the lives of others is not the enemy. Yeah, Michael Moore. WE KNOW. Why is he so condescending?!?!?!??! And how come this guy who, again, I genuinely think has his heart in the right place and mostly falls on the morally just side of most issues and who does work hard to make other people’s lives better, for the most part, can’t even make a simplistic and painfully obvious point about what is happening in America right now without it sounding defensive and self-serving? Maybe this would make more sense if he was a shy, behind-the-scenes kind of filmmaker who hated public appearances and self-promotion, but this is one of the most aggressively public documentarians if not THE MOST that has ever existed. Dude inserts himself into the conversation CONSTANTLY and often UNNECESSARILY. So why is he shuddering and flaking and rolling his eyes back into his head the moment he comes under the smallest bit of scrutiny? You are the one who put yourself here, Michael Moore. Again and again. You are the one who thinks that you are the most fascinating part of the [Insert Political Cause Here] cause. So roll with it, dude! Good grief.

I hope this story never ends.

Comments (51)
  1. Surely Michael Moore understands that your earned income in a given year is not an appropriate measure of wealth, right? Like, if I have no job, and millions of dollars in a mattress that earns no income, I still have millions of dollars in a mattress and am a millionaire.

  2. I swear, it knows me.

  3. “Midlist”? I’ve been reading a MIDLIST blog this WHOLE TIME????

  4. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  5. Wait, so Videogum pays at the 5-10% level? Then why aren’t guest bloggers compensated? Is it because THEY ARE THE 99%, YOU SNOB?

  6. Michael Moore is not an attractive man.

    • that is seriously the only thing i could think of when i watched this. sometimes when i see him i think: gee, he really needs to shave that hobo beard. i get that he is trying to look folksy or whatever, but common.

      and now he shaved his beard and he just looks like some creepy morbidly obese whale with seven thousand chins.

      look i know this is like the least important thing to talk about in terms of the OWS movement, or michael moore, and, like, i shouldnt insult peoples weight, and that ad hominem attacks are really cheap and infantile, but really, he is just so ugly, how can anyone listen to a god damn thing he says?!

  7. “Would someone in the 1% clothe himself solely in items you can buy in a truck stop and cut his hair with a pair of desk scissors? I rest my case. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s 99 cent chalupas at Taco Bell today and I have $10,000 that’s burning a hole in my pocket.” — Michael Moore.

  8. Gabe makes a good point. Ironically by being so condescending about the 1% (re. “Well, I haven’t seen a list of these good-hearted wall-street folks” etc.) he undermines his, or what should be his, point that it is the political system and laws in this country created inequality and not solely some gelatinous mass of greedy individuals.

    • You know what WAS created by a gelatinous mass of greedy individual?

      Bowling For Columbine.

    • yes, the political system and laws created the space for this massive skewing of wealth and opportunity, but political systems and laws are not neutral things. they are socially constructed institutions that are built by a power system controlled by an elite.

      • also, as a side note, i appreciate the fact that many wealthy people are “willing” to take a tax hike, but at the same time, fuck that framing of the issue. it shouldn’t be about how great these rich guys are for being “willing” to have their taxes raised, it should be able how that’s the only way for the larger economy to fucking FUNCTION. that’s a different conversation with a different rhetorical narrative that moves it beyond how wonderful these individuals are for wanting to share their largesse with the little people into the realm of how an economy needs to be taxed and regulated in order for society to remotely function in a sustainable manner.

        • I like whenever the word “willing” is used in conjunction with tax hike. As if taxes were optional and it is their decision wether or not they go up. Although in a way it is because the rich control politics which…nevermind my brain hurts and I have to go work to pay my taxes.

        • There are not enough rich people for us to tax our way back to solvency. It’s a big ol’ complicate mess. When roughly half the population is not paying income taxes (they’re paying taxes in other ways I fully acknowledge) you’ve got a pretty big hole in your revenue stream.

          But taxing rich people at super high rates doesn’t work especially with the current tax attorney’s wet dream of an impenetrable, arcane, impossible to decipher tax code. There are so many ways to hide your income or just shift it out of the country that even with a high rate on the top, they will still be able to NOT pay it (see GE, Jack Welch). Scrap the tax code and go with a set of progressive (small on the bottom big on the top) zero deduction/loopholes tax rates and we might see some movement. Otherwise we’re just spitting in the wind.

          And this is not directed at any one person but here goes. The whole concept of The 1% is bullshit. Income is just one measure of wealth as one commenter has said. However, the people who make up the different percentages in the Lorenz curve (income inequality graph for you ECON nerds) move around. The bottom 20% today will likely be the top 20% in a few years. Think of how poor you are in college or grad school (I’m an insufferable grad student right now). You are super poor! I’m negative poor, Louis CK I’ve gotta make a buncha money just to be at zero poor. But as most people go through work life their income increases and they accumulate wealth, even people without college or advance degrees (seniority, etc.).

      • I agree with you. But all of his grandstanding has the counterintuitive effect of placing the majority of the blame on the ‘greed of wall street’ rather than 30 years of trickle down tax policy and an ideology that regulation is inherently bad for business (which stimulated the greed). This ideology does not necessarily strike me as bipartisan, and thus I think that voting matters. And I wish he would use his pulpit to tell people to vote, something they didn’t do in 2010, rather than condescending the 1%.

        • sometimes i get real sad when the arguments always boil down to “vote”, for the obvious crap that “voting for the lesser evil” choice ultimately is. the US is a really pathetic democracy these days, and it’s gotten to that point partially because of our history of disenfranchisement set up a losers-from-the-start system. there’s a famous LBJ speech where he first announces the great society, and he makes the analogy that we are all in a footrace, but we’ve kept large numbers of our population in economic and social chains, and that we expect that once we remove those chains, they will be able to immediately go from being kept still to keeping up with everyone else. and i’ve started thinking about how our entire governing system- which affect the economic system and the social realities- is imbued with those chains, and how absolutely obtuse it is to think that merely voting one oligarchical power elite in rather than another oligarchical power elite is going to remove those chains, let alone enact any programs that are going to attempt to rectify how opportunities, wealth, and assets have been hoarded across our society. at this point i am seriously, seriously considering sitting out the next election, because fuck the weak ass social change and paltry commitment to social or economic justice that the democratic party has shown in the past 20 years. at this point i almost want to see this economy crash into a great depression, since that’s what it takes in order for monumental rather than incremental change to occur.

          • While I understand your frustration with the current environment and political system, I would still urge you to vote. And while I would anticipate that you probably err in favor of something different from capitalism, the system hasn’t always been dysfunctional (i.e. 50 years ago) (at least to my knowledge; i’m not that old) insofar as we still operated under the same general principles of markets with appropriate regulation (as opposed to communism or something else) and had substantially less income inequality and greater social mobility (save for egregious civil rights violations).

            The point is, at some point this changed. People got voted into power and enacted laws that created income inequality, laws that pushed banks to lend to people who couldn’t afford it, and laws that bailed them out; bipartisan laws to push home ownership, the removal of the barrier between commercial and investment banks so when the shit went down, everyone went down with it. Even the regulatory agencies and laws that WERE in place were largely gutted by the Bush administration and their regulatory powers were unused, with the prevailing belief was that the banks would, out of self-interest, regulate themselves. That this notion was absurd on its face didn’t matter at all.

            The people in charge of propagating these ideologies were voted into power. The reason why they were is probably a different discussion. My point is that voting matters. Unfortunately, the people that espouse this ideology were voted back into power in 2010 (largely because young people did not vote; i think something around 20% for 18-29 yr olds) and are essentially telling banks to go screw it up again.

            I do think the system is intentionally built to allow commercial and investment banks to merge, to structure taxes so CEOs pay less than their employees, to create investment bubble after investment bubble, and this is bad. But I probably disagree with you that both parties are equally at fault.

            Sorry to be so long winded, but here’s another reason why voting matters, at least to me. Thanks to Obamacare, I get to have health insurance. Voting for the other guy: I might not.

          • well, the golden years of the US economic engine (1945 – 1965) were the culmination of a backlash against unbridled investment capitalism that drove the system prior to the great depression and the gains created by post-war dominance over the burgeoning global economic system. so in a way, those twenty years of growth and relatively shared prosperity (once again, as you mentioned, the prosperity was disproportionately available to whites, and white males at that) are an anomaly of capitalism and shouldn’t be viewed as normative. i find it strange that so much of how we think economics should and does function rests on what is really a tiny burp of economic prosperity that was driven by a specific set of non-replicable inputs. and the erosion of that prosperity was definitely, definitely the deliberate supply side economic policies that were enacting starting in the early 70s, so you are correct on that, but the reasons why those policies were enacted was because the inputs that created the prosperity were declining.

            and while yes, voting matters, and yes, i have never ever in my adult life missed an election for any level of government because i am obviously a huge civics nerd, i’m pretty heartbroken at this point. and the democrats and obama keep offering these absolutely paltry concessions to me. yes, obamacare is somewhat better than the system we had before it, but it still leaves much of the exploitative structure of the insurance business intact and i’m not ok with that. i don’t want to support that anymore. i will most likely throw my vote away on some ridiculously left wing candidate and be fine with that. and if the republicans get back into power, i hope they drive this country into the fucking ground so fast that heads are on pikes by 2013.

        • What your argument fails to take into account are the massive, massive amount of money banks spend on campaign contributions and lobbying. Politicians are forced to run insanely expensive campaigns once every few years, and that money needs to come from somewhere. The elite are more than happy to foot the bill, but once that candidate wins, who do you think the politician is accountable to? This is why we used to have so many campaign finance laws, to prevent politicians being accountable to anyone other than their constituents. The banks and corporations have systematically destroyed all of these safeguards, and now the inmates are running the asylum via shady, anonymous Super PACs and massive massive lobbying fees.

          The argument that Congress FORCED these banks to lend to subprime borrowers is so completely flawed and this guy will explain why better than I ever could: http://goo.gl/SWvmX

          • (this is in reply to fondue cheddar. southernbitch, you rule.)

          • I agree with you both on most points, especially the influence of the massive amounts of corporate money spent on campaign contributions; I think this whole aspect of the system needs to be reformed. But I don’t think that necessarily devalues the argument that having markets is necessarily bad, I just think they need to be regulated appropriately. And I believe that there are people that actually care about it, (and I don’t think it’s completely systemic across both parties,) and I hope these people get elected to office. And DN, I’m not saying they forced the banks to do anything, I’m just saying they set the rules to encourage this behavior. And SB, I agree with you about the healthcare reform, it’s not perfect by any stretch, but it’s got some good stuff, and will hopefully put us down the path to a better system. And #TomKaun2012

          • Good points fondue cheddar!

            Markets are not perfect and that ours have not been properly regulated I think is self evident. The only problem is that they are the only system that works. Even the Chinese have figured out that they cannot run a command economy in today’s reality.

            Also, our big messy inefficient system of gov’t is a good thing. Slick, fast moving governments are the quickest road to tyranny. Fascism and Chinese authoritarianism is really fast moving and responsive and can change on a dime. But Madison and the Founders had it right, we might get frustrated with the slow pace of change but the system makes it impossible to fundamentally change the nature of the country without general agreement. If we were more efficient we would be at the whim of whoever happened to be in charge. Most gummers OK trusting Obama’s decision I’m guessing (less now than 3 years ago I’m sure) but I am definitely NOT OK with his thinking.

          • So Lobbying and money in politics:

            Full disclosure, I spent 5 years working for in the “government relations” shop of a law firm in DC. We were lobbyists, evil GOP leaning, defense contractor representing lobbyists (our def. contractors were minority owned, small businesses though).

            Trying to keep money out of politics is about as useful as the War on Drugs. Not useful at all. Every time we pass a law to restrict contributions lobbyists will find another way to get it to the pols that agree with them. Like drugs, as long as there is a demand people will find a way to fill it. The only way to deal with the situation is to take away or mitigate demand. With drugs, you legalize everything! and shift the wasted interdiction money to treatment and take your lumps from the Bible beaters for the uptick in drug use.

            With lobbying we have to take away the demand from corporations, unions, special interest groups to influence the government. How do you do that? Get the government out of every aspect of those businesses. When the Gov is up your butt you are willing to pay someone make ‘em pull out or to make it feel better. Unfortunately, corporations/unions like the GOV up their butt because they get to sweet talk it into doing them favors and/or beat up on their rivals.

          • that’s not enough disclosure

  9. “Oh, I am totally in the 1%. The whole 99% / 1% thing is, of course, just a signifier for an important issue to this movement. In reality there are 300,000 people in the 1% which includes a lot of helpful doctors, successful documentary filmmakers, and such, while the real problem is the disparity in income between the upper 0.001% (which I am not in) and everyone else.” – Michael Moore I WISH

  10. “this is one of the most aggressively public documentarians if not THE MOST that has ever existed”

    Excuse me Gabe, there’s someone here to defend his title.

  11. Gabe, you do a great job. But if you are in the top 5% of wealthiest Americans you are probably significantly overpaid.

  12. “It’s not my fault I’m rich. Blame the Weinsteins!” — Michael Moore, probably.

  13. Thank you for informing me as to what occurred on two non-consecutive episodes of Piers Morgan Tonight with Piers Morgan, a show i have never watched. Otherwise i wouldnt know.

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