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Downsize This!: Random Threats from an Unarmed American

Downsize This!: Random Threats from an Unarmed American

by Michael Moore

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Americans today are working harder, working longer and yet for most of us, in this time of ruthless downsizing and political cronyism, job security, a decent standard of living and a comfortable retirement are becoming harder and harder to find. In this brilliantly funny and right-on-target diatribe, irreverent everyman Michael Moore gives his own bold views on who


Americans today are working harder, working longer and yet for most of us, in this time of ruthless downsizing and political cronyism, job security, a decent standard of living and a comfortable retirement are becoming harder and harder to find. In this brilliantly funny and right-on-target diatribe, irreverent everyman Michael Moore gives his own bold views on who's behind the fading of the American dream.

Whether issuing Corporate Crook trading cards, organizing a Rodney King Commemorative Riot, sending a donation to Pat Buchanan from the John Wayne Gacy fan club (which was accepted) or trying to commit former right-wing congressman Bob Dornan to a mental hospital, the in-your-face host of TV Nation and director/star of Roger & Me combines an expansive wit with biting social commentary to make you think and laugh at the same time.

In hardcover, Downsize This! stormed the bestseller lists of the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle and others. Given Michael Moore's enormous — and growing — constituency, this trade paperback edition brings his unique perspective on the nation to an even greater audience.

Editorial Reviews

The Barnes & Noble Review
September 1997

Anita Gates, reviewer for The New York Times Book Review, describes best the politically incorrect and sometimes scathing style of author, filmmaker, and general gadfly Michael Moore when she writes, "Mr. Moore has a real talent for cutting through the garbage, digging out the important points and serving them up in delightful, outrageous, sometimes irrefutable ways." In the age of American corporate downsizing, when companies most resemble profit-preservation societies rather than reliable and fair employers, satirist Moore has once again fearlessly enlisted in the fight for the individual, silent laborer, working longer hours for less pay and shivering through sleepless nights without the blanket of job security. Downsize This! spent a month on the New York Times bestseller list in hardcover, and no doubt, now that the paperback has been released (containing new material), more people will read Moore's deconstructive satire of distinctly American political and economic ills.

Considered the spokesman for the working American, Moore's sole objective in writing Downsize This! was to bring candid and brutally honest discomfort to the corporate giants, politicians, lobbyists, and others who build their own prosperous careers and companies around the policy of swindling all that can be swindled out of the employee. Compared with Will Rogers for his humorous approach to societal politics, and considered as dangerous and unsettling as Mike Wallace, Moore is unflinching and unafraid to confront those who make life tougher for theaveragehardworking American. Moore's nonfiction film "Roger & Me," about the closing of a General Motors Plant in Flint, Michigan, became the highest grossing nonfiction film of all time for its fearlessness. Moore pulls no punches now in book form; the chapter names in Downsize This! speak for themselves: "Why Doesn't GM Sell Crack?" "Would Pat Buchanan Take a Check from Satan?" "Balance the Budget? Balance My Checkbook!" "NAFTA's Great! Let's Move Washington to Tijuana!" "Let's All Hop in a Ryder Truck!"

Moore has a way of hitting a nerve in the arm of American consciousness, an ability to make policy makers squirm when faced with the often ridiculous reality of their decisions. Some of the things that Moore uncovers: the fact that in Ventura, California, prison inmates are taking plane reservations for TWA. Never one to be hesitant to go straight to the big cheese, Moore presents Johnson Controls of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with a giant check for all of 80 cents, the first-hour wage for their first Mexican employee. He issues "corporate crook" trading cards and tries to commit a certain congressman to a mental institution. Outrageous in his ideas and schemes, Michael Moore may very well appeal to your sense of humor; more important, Downsize This! will also succeed in illuminating the absurdity of how Americans do business.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Moore, whose documentary film Roger & Me and television series TV Nation have a strong cult following, takes on corporations, politicians and Americana in general in a mordant satire that will leave both conservatives and liberals reeling with embarrassment. Moore tears into corporations and labor unions alike. Citing "economic terrorism," he goes after the "Big Welfare Mamas"the CEOsdetailing their cozy tax deals with federal and local government, which have added to the deficit. He attacks the unions in "Why Are Union Leaders So F#!@ing Stupid," citing how they have collaborated with corporations (while taking huge salaries) to slash jobs from their own memberships. No one is immune; Moore scrutinizes the President, Bob Dole, NAFTA, Cuban refugees and Pat Buchanan. A scathing, funny book packed with facts, it will appeal to those who loved Al Franken's Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot. Photos. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Sept.)
Library Journal
The man who brought you Roger & Me takes on the fat cats again.
Kirkus Reviews
The man behind the popular documentary Roger and Me and the short-lived series TV Nation takes a stab at authorship—and at every conservative sacred cow available.

Moore brings a uniformly predictable lefty perspective to a series of topics, including corporate downsizing of workforces, Bill Clinton's weakness in opposing the right wing, Congress's craven subjugation to special interests, NAFTA, white racism, anti-feminist hysteria, homophobia, and the demonization of welfare recipients. As in his film and video work, Moore is at his best when he leads the fuzzy-minded to the logical conclusions of their thought processes, for example, getting an anti-abortion activist to agree that male masturbation is a serious moral issue because life actually begins with the individual sperm. There is a good deal of useful political information spread through the book, including the names and deeds of a number of corporate executives and lobbyists whose power is seldom treated as critically as it should be by journalists. The humor is hit-and-miss, though, and readers who don't seethe along with Moore in his populist rage are likely to find the book as a whole tiresome. There's also a considerable amount of the nastiness that liberals decry among today's conservative polemicists, the low point being a suggestion to Bob Dole that he replace the pen with which he keeps his disabled right hand from closing in on itself with something more appropriate, such as a coathanger to symbolize his views on abortion.

Moore might consider, as he passes judgment on the hypocrisy of our time, that a writer who can muse on his frequent exasperation with limousine drivers should refer to the working class as something other than "we."

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Harper Perennial
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

Since making Roger & Me in 1989, I've listened to a lot of stories from people, strangers in the street, who want to buy me a beer or a burger and tell me what happened to their American Dream. Roger & Me chronicled how the world's richest corporation, General Motors, destroyed my hometown of Flint, Michigan, by firing 30,000 workers during a time when the company was making record profits. I filmed my search to find the chairman of GM, Roger Smith, and tried to convince him to come to Flint so he could see what he had done to the people there.
Although Roger never made it to Flint, a lot of other people have. These days everyone, it seems, lives in their own Flint, Michigan.

The stories I hear are pretty much the same, with a few variations to allow for the pink-slipped brother who committed suicide, or the mother who lost her life savings when the pension fund went belly-up. I have heard so many of these stories that I can fill in the blanks before the sentences are finished. I find myself doing this to keep from sinking into an even greater despair.
It is not pleasant when a homeless person actually knows you and calls out, "Hey, Mike!" as you are trying to walk quickly past him and his shopping cart. This happened to me on 46th Street in New York City in front of the Paramount Hotel. I was with a vice president of NBC and the producers of my show "TV Nation." The homeless man grabbed my hand for a shake and told me he, too, was from Flint, Michigan, but now lives here on the street.
He wanted to describe his favorite part of Roger & Me, which he had seen three years ago when he had a job. While the NBC executive waswatching in disbelief, I'm thinking to myself . . . I know this guy!
"You remember me, don't you?" he asked. "I used to deliver your newspaper, the Flint Voice."
Why was it him standing there like that? Why not me? But for the grace of Warner Bros. and NBC? I emptied my pockets and gave him everything I had. We left him on the street and went inside, where I had a $30 steak. The NBC suit had a salad. My buddy from Flint was probably already guzzling his aptly named Colt .45.
As I write this I am on a plane to Ames, Iowa, to speak to a group of students and farmers who, like the strangers in the street, are angry and depressed that the America they once believed in has all but told them where to get off. When I arrive, the auditorium is overflowing. I begin to hear the same stories of betrayal and bewilderment and, always, the Big Question. Why is it that if they worked so hard for so long, and played by the rules, and voted for the Republicans, their reward has been foreclosure and divorce, bankruptcy and "the bottle"?
As I sit offstage listening to the introduction, I think about how I, too, was raised to believe in an America where everyone had the opportunity to achieve a decent life. I was the all-American boy, an Eagle Scout. I won my Marksman certificate from the NRA. I was religious, attending the seminary in high school to become a Catholic priest. I obeyed all the rules (to this day, I have yet to smoke a joint) and worked within our political system (at the age of eighteen, I was elected to public office in Michigan). Until the 1990s, I never earned more than $17,000 a year. I have stood in the unemployment line at least three different times in my life and was collecting $98 a week in "benefits" when I decided to make Roger & Me.
Now, after years of living when I barely had enough money to even go to the movies, I find myself suddenly blessed with the opportunity to make them. I feel truly privileged to be able to speak to so many people. But tonight, I can't stop thinking about the two people I met on my way here to Ames.
"Bill" is what the name read on his shirt, as he stood under the big Delta logo (you'll love the way we fly) behind the airline counter. He took my ticket, looked at the name, looked up at me (one of those "you look so much thinner on TV" looks), and smiled.
"I just saw your movie for the third time," he said, his face turning red because he thinks he's meeting a movie star or something. "I just want to thank you for what you did."
I thanked him for thanking me and then he told me his story.
"I'm fifty years old. Worked here at Delta for twenty-one years. Two years ago, they announced they were downsizing the company and told me I was being laid off. I went into shock. Almost twenty years with the company. Where was I going to get a job at fifty years old? They told us they were bringing in outside part-time contractors to do our jobs. Temps. We were welcome to apply for those jobs if we wanted to--at half our former wage. I just couldn't do it."
"So," I interrupted, "how many prescriptions did you eventually go on?"
"Six," he replied, without missing a beat. "Prozac, Xanax, Pepcid, Lasix, Clonidine for my blood pres-
sure . . ."
". . . And something to help you sleep at night."
"Yeah, Ambien, how'd you guess?"
"I get stopped a lot. People who have lost their jobs want to show me their portable pill cases--you know, a little compartment for each day of the week or--"
"Or each pill compartment divided by color," he said, finishing my sentence as he pulled out his plastic medicine chest to show me.
"You're not flying this plane I'm taking, are you?" I asked half-seriously.
He told me that the only way he got to come back to work was because someone had died and he was highest on the seniority list. "I'm down to three pills a day," Bill said, mustering a little pride. "Things are looking up."

Meet the Author

Michael Moore's first book, Downsize This!, was a New York Times bestseller in both hardcover and paperback. The award-winning director of the groundbreaking documentary Roger & Me, which became the largest grossing nonfiction film of all time, Moore is the creator and host of the Emmy-winning series TV Nation and The Awful Truth. Also the coauthor (with Kathleen Glynn) of Adventures In A TV Nation, he lives in New York City.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
April 23, 1954
Place of Birth:
Davison, Michigan
Attended University of Michigan, Flint

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