[a] perfectly fucked up postcard from the edge of the millennium, picking up where 1996′s Evil Empire left off, painting fiery pictures of the disenfranchised and the white hand that keeps them down. With his voice rasping sharp as ever, de la Rocha launches into capitalism, the media…and politicians that are too worried about oil and money to lift a finger.
“Sleep Now in the Fire,” the fifth track on the album, “contains lyrics about greed, such as the conquest of Native Americans, Christopher Columbus’ voyage by Niña (ship) The Pinta, and Santa Maria and U.S. slavery in the 1800s as well as criticism of actions taken by the U.S. government in wartime, including the bombing of Hiroshima and the use of Agent Orange in the Vietnam War.”
Nominated for best rock video at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, the video is a more pointed commentary on the effect that these things have had on our society – particularly the greed element.
Watch the video here.
Directed by professional shit-stirrer-upper Michael Moore (who else?), the video features two main scenes. The first is a real performance on the steps of New York Stock Exchange under non-troversial circumstances. Michael Moore described the events, in rather dramatic fashion, on his web site.
The second scene is a satirical game show called Who Wants to Be Filthy F#&%ing Rich?
Contestants are asked some basic questions about the economy, to not-so-subtly illustrate that Americans don’t know dick about dick…especially when that dick is attached to a poor person. The facts given in these Q&As are meant to be jarring; the intent seems to be to inject some foreign – and possibly a little unwelcome – truth into the minds of their young fans via music video.
Anyway…I was curious – how have things changed since Y2K? Have things gotten better? Worse? Let’s find out.
Ready to play?
(Note: It was kind of a challenge to find comparable data. I decided it was much more important to find data from a consistent, reliable source than to chase down whatever source Rage Against the Machine used in their research twelve years ago.)
Number of Americans with no health care?
A: 45 million
B: A few old people
According to the US Census Bureau, in 2000, there were actually 38.7 million Americans without health insurance, or 14.0% of the population. In 2009, this number had climbed to 50.7 million, or 16.7% of the population. The Economist recently stated that 17% of Americans are currently without health insurance.
The richest 10% in America own…
A: 80% of all wealth
Again, there are so many ways to measure wealth that it makes sense to look at the same question in a different way. The Gini index is a measure of the inequality of the distribution of income or wealth within an economy, where 0 indicates perfect equality and 1 perfect inequality. Check it out:
Okay so it’s clear that this indicator has increased somewhat since 2000. But what’s far more interesting/horrifying/important to note here is the steady increase in income inequality that has been occurring over the last 30-40 years. (Note: The question in the video addressed wealth, and we are looking at income – a less complicated and, in my opinion, more important, way of looking at the issue.)
What does this mean? The middle class in this country is being systematically disassembled. The Republicans like to whine about the “redistribution of wealth” and about how any economic policy that ends in the poor having a little more and the rich having a little less is “socialism” pure and simple. This rhetoric has made the subject absolutely toxic politically, which is unfortunate for us because it means that the Democrats, i.e. the Republicans’ bitches, will run from it like the plague with few exceptions.
The fact is that distributing the wealth is one of the duties of a government, although we don’t usually phrase it that way. Government sets up the rules and then businesses, workers and consumers adjust their decisions accordingly. So when mounds of money get shifted to the top, we call it helping the “job-creators.” If this shift were to go in the other direction, however, it would be portrayed as government-sanctioned Robin Hoodism. Why do we, as a nation, tend to believe that the rich “deserve” money more than anyone else?
A: 30% less than men
In 2009, women were making 22% less than their male counterparts – still a staggering number, but for our intents and purposes, an improvement!
How many people in the world live on less than $1 a day?
A: 1 billion
B: not possible!
This one was kind of hard to track – especially because this standard for measuring poverty was changed at some point in the last decade to $1.25. But according to the World Bank, the amount of people living on less than $1 a day decreased from 20% to 14% of the world’s population. It’s worth noting, though, that a huge chunk of this reduction in poverty has taken place in China; the rest of the world has actually only seen a slight reduction – but a reduction nonetheless.
How many Americans live in poverty?
A: 35 million
B: what poverty?
In 2009, 43.6 million Americans were living in poverty – this is 14.3% of our country’s population.
Maybe we are headed for disaster, maybe not. Maybe some things will never change: