That wasn't a television appearance, that was a cry for help.
Dylan Ratigan was a guest on MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow's show last night, ostensibly to plug his new book, "Greedy Bastards! How We Can Stop Corporate Communists, Banksters, and Other Vampires From Sucking America Dry" and to condemn Mitt Romney as a free-market predator. (video clip after page break)
Before he was done, Ratigan blamed his epic battle to save Americans from their own economic decisions for taking a dire toll on his health. What a shock that Ratigan also came across as agitated, contradictory and alarming.
After offering the mildest of criticisms of Maddow's lead-in, Ratigan fawned that he was "so flattered to be in your company" and "wouldn't want to be inappropriate." (Worst of sins on the left, after praising George W. Bush and Joe McCarthy). Ratigan elaborated --
One, I think you can afford to be significantly more brutal as to the destructive nature of the financing apparatus that not only Mitt Romney, but a tremendous percentage, including Newt Gingrich who took millions of dollars from Fannie Mae (wrong -- Freddie Mac), including by the way, participants by a large number in the Democratic Party as well who are attached to this system. And that system (skeptical look from Maddow first appears here), which we're seeing protested whether it's through the Occupation (yes -- "the Occupation") or whether it's through the tea party, is precisely the system that you were just describing and I think a lot of the frustration is, is not hard to figure out why Mitt Romney is the extractionist, right, that's like, my dream come true, people are like, extraction, what are you talking about, I'm like, well Mitt Romney, just study him, that's extractionism. (Akin to Obama's takeover of GM, for example). But I think that we do ourselves a disservice when we play too much to the heroes and the villains because the destruction of Mitt Romney or the ascendancy of Mitt Romney won't save you and me.
C'mon, Rachel, only Obama can do that. First flag goes up -- politicians as saviors. Followed by Ratigan explaining his mile-wide, inch-deep understanding of capitalism as divided between those seeking to "collaborate" and others causing "dysfunction" --
... one business model that seeks to collaborate, Rachel and Dylan want to sell cups, hey, I've got an idea for a cup design. Hey Rachel, do you have five bucks? You're like, OK, great, let's go sell some cups. Where they buy the cups, I become a famous cupmaker, you make a couple of bucks, that's beautiful, I say, man, that's America!
Romney helping get Staples off the ground also comes to mind. That's America! Ratigan then described that horrific second model of capitalism --
The other thing is, Rachel says, hey Dylan's got a cup, I think I can borrow somebody else's money from Dylan's retirement and borrow Dylan's retirement money to buy his cup from him and then sell his cup to somebody else cheap so that you get a lot of money (points accusingly at Maddow) and I'm left with no cup.
Simple solution, Dylan -- don't sell your cup. That's America too! Clutch that cup for all it's worth, especially when Maddow's around. Yet more feverish insight from Ratigan --
And that, I mean, that may sound, that is what we're talking about, if you were to talk to a 3-year-old or talk to a 5-year-old (MSNBC's target audience), what's the system? How do the grown-ups make decisions in America? What you'd have to tell them is, we don't differentiate between whether Rachel and Dylan decided to collaborate to make something or whether Rachel or Dylan are able to exploit one another through some particular breach of either visibility, integrity or choice, where I just withhold some information from you (the formula for Coca-Cola, Google algorithms, whatever) or whatever it might be or there's all these things that we all do in our personal relationships and in our systematic relationships as a country (again, Dylan, don't sell that cup!) and we're paying a price for honoring money over nobility. (Anyone who wants to challenge me on this, we duel at dawn). And we've lost the nobility of actually making decisions as adults with each other and observing dysfunction with compassion, right?
Then came the Ratigan describing the personal toll that his courageous crusade has, uh, extracted --
My problem is judgment. I've been out here for three years, yelling and screaming about all these problems and it's wrong. And it's hurt me. I mean, I joke about it but I've gained weight , I've started smoking. Like it's not healthy to become angry about what's in this book. As somebody who wrote it originally angry, you know? It's compassion.
Having declared that Americans are incapable of disinguishing between collaborative and dysfunctional capitalism, Ratigan promptly undercuts his claim --
MADDOW: But are we becoming more precise and more accurate about what free enterprise is?
RATIGAN: Oh yeah. It's amazing.
MADDOW: We're getting better at it as a country.
RATIGAN: It is so, the revelation of discreet data and the ability to identify discreet data and then adapt to it, which we first saw with crime fighting in New York. ... In this book we talk about Dr. (Jeffrey) Brenner and Camden, N.J. The most interesting place to do health care research in this country right now is in the poorest cities, because nobody cares. (Except, of course, those of us at MSNBC). And so you have Dr. Brenner in Camden, N.J., who's realized, hang on a second, what percentage of all the health care costs in Camden, N.J., are being created by what percentage of the people? And what he finds is that one percent of the people in Camden, N.J., account for 30 percent of the health care spending (Screwed again by the top one percent!), mostly because they're not taking their diabetes medicine and not going for a walk around the block. So he sets up a preventative team, hits those people, they reduce their costs by 50 percent and the overall health care costs in Camden collapse.
And it's that sort of intelligent, discreet decision-making and problem-solving on how -- not how much -- that is determinative to our future as a people and as a country.
If "how much" doesn't matter, why mention how much health costs went down in Camden?
Emerging from the wreckage at the end of the interview, Ratigan apologized to Maddow -- "I'm sorry to carry on so much" -- but having gotten that off his chest, "I want to smoke a cigarette now." Possibly the only time a man has said this in Maddow's presence.
At one point in his diatribe, Ratigan claimed "we've lost the nobility of actually making decisions as adults" and of "observing dysfunction with compassion." To the extent I'm capable, that's what I'll attempt here, at least when it comes to the latter. To watch Ratigan last night on the Maddow show was to observe dysfunction. Best that he confront those demons before weight gain and smoking are the least of his problems.