ABC's Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher April 15, 1998
Show Transcript, April 15, 1998

1998 Brillstein-Grey Communications

April 15th, 1998
Guests on this program were:
Gerald Posner
Rita Coolidge
Peter Scolari
Michael Moore

Bill's Opening
[ Cheers and applause ]

Bill: Thank you, folks.
Thank you very much.
Why, you're very kind.
Another good-mood crowd on tax day.
I think that's great.
Two days in a row, people -- and, you know, the President left the country today.
Couldn't even face the music.
He continues his world tour.
He just got back from Africa, it seemed like, the other day.
Well, now he's in South America.
He's on his way as we speak.
He's going to settle some trade problems there.
And he's going to make a big apology for the United States not stepping in and doing something about Charo.
[ Laughter ]
[ Applause ]
He likes to apologize.
Well, speaking of world tours and presidents,
Newt Gingrich, who is on a big book tour -- have you bought the book?
[ Silence ]
He's got a book out.
And he said today that he may run for president.
He said it's not likely, but he may.
Of course, his approval ratings, we reported a couple years ago they
were just below the Ebola virus.
[ Laughter ]
Well, they have risen above them so that he's encouraged, but they are
still below the iceberg that killed everybody on the "Titanic."
So he --
[ Laughter ]
[ Applause ]
Well, interesting news from our state of California, which is often a
And this may have implications.
They are considering a bill here to raise the fee for a jury.
You know, jurors get $5 a day.
Not much.
They're thinking of raising it to $16, and even more if they agree to
pay attention to the evidence.
So --
[ Laughter and applause ]
Now, here was something pretty frightening if you're a woman with
breasts, and I guess most women are.
[ Laughter ]
What -- no, front page news today.
They said half of all breast exams are unnecessary.
Apparently, for every ten mammograms they do, 50% of them shouldn't have
been done, and they get a false alarm read back on it.
So the AMA is warning women.
They say refrain, even though it's more convenient, from having your
breasts examined by the guy at the one-hour photo place.
[ Laughter and applause ]
But here on the flip side, some good news for women.
You know, one of the big complaints women have always had is that men do
not help around the house.
Housework, chores.
I've heard John Gray talk about this.
One of housewives' big complaint.
Well, a new study out shows that men are shouldering more of the
responsibility around the house.
For example, Woody Allen has always been willing to do his picking up
around the House.
[ Laughter ]
[ Applause ]
All right.
Thanks for coming.
It's always satirized --
[ Cheers and applause ]

Panel Discussion
[ Applause ]
Bill: All righty.
Let us meet our panel.
A journalist whose books include "Case Closed" and "Citizen Perot," his
newest is "Killing the Dream, James Earl Ray and the Assassination of
Martin Luther King Jr.," Gerald Posner.
[ Applause ]
There you are.
Thank you for coming.
Gerald: Good to see you.
Bill: All right.
Her great hits include "Higher and Higher," "We're All Alone," and the
theme from "Octopussy."
Her new CD is --
[ Laughter ]
"Thinking About You," Rita Coolidge.
[ Applause ]
Hey, you.
Rita: Thanks for the "Octopussy" part.
Bill: Thank you.
The star of Disney's "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids" and co-star of HBO's
"From the Earth to the Moon," Peter Scolari.
[ Applause ]
There he is.
How are you?
Good to see you.
And the fun-loving, muckraking star of "Roger & Me."
His new movie is "The Big One," Michael Moore.
And there he is.
[ Applause ]
How are you, buddy?
Michael: Good to see you.
Bill: Okay.
All right.
Well, did everybody get their taxes in?
Because if you didn't you're late.
This is the day.
Now, let me ask you this about taxes, because taxes, as you know, we
didn't even have a federal income tax till about 1920.
And then it was just to raise revenue.
But it seems to me over the years what has really been bad about taxes
is that it has become an object of social engineering.
Government taxes things it decides it doesn't like and gives breaks for
things it does like.
Like it decides churches are good.
They don't get taxed.
Cigarettes are bad.
They do get taxed.
They want to raise the tax $1.10 on a pack of cigarettes.
Families and children they think are good.
You get a break for them.
Well, isn't that un-American for the government to decide?
What if I like cigarettes and hate children and churches?
[ Laughter ]
And by the way, I happen to like cigarettes and hate children and
Gerald: Fine.
You can do it. You just have to pay for it.
Bill: Why should I, as an American?
Gerald: Well, what's this thing about Americans don't have to pay for social engineering?
I think it's okay.I like the idea.
I don't have a family, so I don't get the family tax credit.
Bill: You like the idea that the government is deciding what is good and
therefore making you pay for it?
Gerald: Yeah, I think that we can have taxes on items like cigarettes
and things like that.
I have no problems with the extra taxes.
Bill: You're a Communist.
Gerald: And I don't worry about them pushing forward a social program by
saying we're going to have a tax break.
I don't have a problem with that, redistribution of the wealth.
Michael: It's different, Bill.
The taxes on the cigarettes are to help pay for all the problems you
smokers cause the rest of us.
That's what we have to, you know, pay for the --
[ Applause ]
But I agree with you --
Bill: Mike, I don't want to get personal, but overweight people cause a
lot of health problems, too.
Michael: I know.
[ Laughter ]
Bill: They cause -- there's a lot of money that --
Michael: The chance of Rita dying from the fact that I had a Twinkie
before the show is nil.
[ Laughter ]
Gerald: Unless you tell on her.
That would be the only time, that's right.
Rita: We were fighting.
I could have been injured.
Michael: As a single person, you're right.
You should not be taxed more for that.
For the fact that you live in an apartment.
Bill: Or if I'm an atheist.
Gerald: How do you get taxed more?
Because --
Bill: Churches are -- religion is tax deductible.
Why is that?
That's a business.
Gerald: Well, even if you're an atheist, maybe there's some benefit to
the fact that people do go to church, then feel better when they get
out, and they contribute somehow to that little community you live in,
and you have some benefit you don't even realize.
Bill: Are you on drugs?
[ Laughter ]
Gerald: I knew you would like that.
That is the official IRS argument for why taxes on churches might help
you, even if you don't believe in God.
Rita: I find that it is a form of manipulation by the government.
Bill: Exactly.
Rita: As you said, to kind of railroad people on the issues and the
places that they want to go.
And I would love, I would love to see my tax dollars, which are many, I
would love to see them going towards health and education and care for
our elders in this country.
You know, there's the issue of taxing casinos on reservations, on native
American reservations.
They want to get right in and take a chunk of that from a group of
people who have been -- have just had, for centuries, have been treated
so badly and not been able to take care of themselves because the
reservations become almost like prisons.
Bill: Aren't cigarettes tax-free on the reservation?
Rita: Well, they might be, but --
Bill: See?
Rita: That's not where I'm talking about.
Bill: See, they actually want the Indians to kill themselves.
[ Laughter ]
Rita: Well, of course they do.
It would just save the government the trouble of, you know, trying to
take out an entire people, which, so far, they've done a pretty good
We're still in there, though.
Peter: Did a pretty damn good job.
But I think it gets very confusing when we mix, and it's easy to do,
value judgments, moral judgments, and we're talking about a tax code
when, as you said at the outset, that the design of the tax codes
originally developed, I think, around 1917, 1918, were only to gather
And in talking to a business manager friend of mine today, he said
three-quarters of Congress do not understand what is in the tax code.
And it's the American way.
We can make value judgments about that in a minute.
But it's the American way to then take this legislation, if you will,
and the codes that are built into it and begin to work our magic with
You have to be a Talmudic scholar to really understand the tax code and
to make any sense out of it.
And it invites people of any income status at all to play around with
that, as we pay our accountants to do.
And it's confusing to me when I -- when we begin to ask the question,
"Well, isn't this wrong?" And, "Isn't this right?" And put the value
Of course, it's human nature to have those value judgments.
But I feel as though we're discussing apples and oranges when we try and
understand our value judgments in a kind of community sense while we're
trying to understand the tax codes, which are incomprehensible.
Bill: It's all about money, isn't it?
We got to take a commercial.
We'll be right back.
[ Applause ]
Bill: All right.
It is tax day.
So we were talking about taxes.
And the government is getting more taxes than ever this year 'cause the
economy is probably the greatest economy we've ever had.
I read the other day in the paper, the South Carolina folks are trying
to do a census, because our census is coming up.
They cannot find people.
They cannot get people to work.
They're paying $10 to $14, they're offering, and nobody wants the job.
I saw on MTV, they set up booths, companies have set up booths on the
beach at spring break.
I'm not kidding.
Xerox and IBM.
Hey, kids, put down the hot dogs -- my question is, in an economy this
good, if you can't find a job, maybe it's you?
[ Laughter ]
[ Applause ]
Gerald: Or maybe you just can't find a job that's good enough.
A lot of jobs have been created, but they've also been minimum-wage
I mean, a lot of the good jobs are being shipped away.
Bill: We all got to start somewhere.
Gerald: No, but it's true.
But, you know, somebody who has a degree or is looking for a profession
or has been laid off at 35 or 40 and now has to have that mid-life move
can't necessarily find -- look, even Intel is letting 5% of its
workforce off.
So, there are jobs out there.
You can get them.
But they aren't necessarily the quality jobs.
Michael: Right.
And you got a lot of people working two jobs in order to make ends meet.
You've got -- if somebody, like, is fired in the cubicle next to you or
they retire or whatever, the company never replaces that person these
They just expect you, the person sitting next to them, to do their job
and your job.
And that's what, you know, people are working longer hours.
Bill: But, Mike, isn't that a little outdated?
You're whole rap about the economy is bad, big business is bad.
Isn't that sort of old hat and a load of crap?
Haven't we really discovered that downsizing worked?
We went way past Japan.
We're doing good.
They're doing bad.
It was painful.
But, you know, that's the American capitalistic system, and it seems to
work better than any other system.
Michael: Yeah, if you ask the average person, though, what they're going
through these days is that they're, you know, trying to get by from
month to month, paycheck to paycheck.
People are not saving money.
Bill: That's --
Michael: No, let me tell you something.
Personal debt is at an all-time high.
Personal bankruptcies are at an all-time high.
Bill: Personal debt is at an all-time because people are buying things
they can't afford with credit cards.
Michael: No.
No, because people are going to the grocery store with a credit card and
buying their groceries on -- they're living on three Mastercards and
paying the minimum balance from month to month in order to get by.
That's what real life is.
Peter: I have lived that way.
Bill: So have I.
Peter: I mean, we have a, in our society, the enabling institutions,
from Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover cards, you can do
very well if you've held down a job for about ten months, and you get
the card, you know, you can buy for three, four, five years.
You can pay off the interest, credit card companies are very happy.
But I'm wondering whether or not are there really qualified, you know,
people who are qualified for high-skill, high-education level jobs
sitting at home, and there are no great jobs available for them?
What I'm concerned about, going back to the beginning of your question,
if there are a lot of minimum-wage jobs available that we kind of
pooh-poohed just a moment ago, are folks not willing to go out and do
the work that -- ?
Bill: Well, that's what this story from South Carolina was saying.
A $14 job taking the census.
That's not shoveling crap.
Michael: It's also a story from South Carolina.
I know, what does that mean?
You know?
[ Laughter ]
You know, I mean --
Rita: Right.
Bill: Well, what does that mean?
That South Carolina is not a state?
Michael: I just don't -- I always question the stuff I read from South
I just -- it just never seems to be right.
[ Laughter ]
[ Applause ]
You know, it just -- they're just -- any state that's still flying the
Confederate flag just, you know --
Peter: I had the pleasure many years of working with Bob Newhart.
And he had a joke in his act.
He said, "I don't like country music, but I don't mean to denigrate
people who have that as a taste.
And for those who do like country music, denigrate means 'to put down or
to make fun of.'"
[ Laughter ]
Why all the alien sightings and abductions seem to happen south of North
Michael: No, no, no.
Wait, I did not mean to start a bash-the-South movement there.
Peter: Oh, I'm sorry.
Michael: I was really just focusing on these statistics --
Peter: The survey.
Bill: But, I mean, you did imply that South Carolina was something less
than one of the 50 states.
[ Laughter ]
And as such a tribune of the people, I would think --
Michael: I know.
Bill: The little man lives there, too, Mike.
Michael: No, no, no, they left.
All the little people left.
And they left it behind for the people that like to raise the
Confederate flag every day.
Gerald: But I do think it's too glib just to say that everybody who
wants a job can get it.
And you are going to get 2% or 3% who never want to take a job, even if
they can find it.
But you're going to find that same 2% or 3%, even if unemployment is 14%
or if it's down to 2%.
Michael: Right.
Bill, let me give you an example of this.
I was on one of these, you know, morning shows, I won't say what
network, the other day.
But after the show was over, the cameraman comes up to me and says, "I'm
a temp worker here.
I've been a temp worker for seven years."
The other cameraman comes up and said, "I'm a contract worker.
I don't have health benefits.
That's why they pay me as a contract worker."
There was a sign-up sheet on the wall to help Bob, the lighting guy,
because they reduced his health benefits to this crummy HMO, so now he
couldn't get the surgery he needed on his foot.
And this is really what people are going through.
Bill: That was all staged for you.
[ Laughter ]
All right.
We have to take a commercial.
We'll be back.
[ Applause ]
Bill: Okay.
As long as we're talking about economic matters, let me ask you this,
which I've had for a long time in my head.
Scalping is illegal.
[ Laughter ]
I didn't mean that kind of scalping.
Rita: It should have been illegal 500 years ago.
Bill: I meant ticket scalping.
Rita: Oh, okay.
Bill: That was not a --
[ Laughter ]
Of course, the other is completely illegal.
You cannot take off someone's --
Peter: Except in Nevada.
Bill: Right.
In Nevada you can take off someone's head.
No, I meant like --
Michael: And South Carolina.
[ Laughter ]
Bill: Outside of a concert.
You know, it seemed to me what the airlines do is scalping.
Because if you don't buy a ticket -- you know, in advance, you have to
pay a lot more for it.
Well, isn't that what scalping is?
If you don't buy the Rolling Stones ticket five months ago, you go the
day of, and the guy will sell you the $75 ticket for $500.
Well, isn't that what the airlines do?
If you don't get the supersaver and you got to fly two days from when
you're buying the ticket, they charge you a lot more.
Gerald: No, it's a bad analogy, because what the airline is saying is
the ticket actually costs $1,000.
If you're willing to pay us your money way up front, like three months
early, we'll give it to you for $300.
So it would be like the Rolling Stones saying, "The ticket's $100 to
come and see our concerts.
Buy it three months up and get it for $30."
You get a discount for being early.
Bill: Honey, that's bs, because we all know money is money.
The point is money is money.
You're paying $75 for the real price of it.
And then, when there's more of a demand, when you haven't --
Gerald: You know what the price is.
It's set.
What happens in scalping is, instead of the price being $1,000, the
airline publishes that.
That's what you're going to pay at the last minute.
Here, the $80 Rolling Stone becomes $500 or $600, so some corporate fat
cat can go in at the last minute, impress his client, buy the ticket for
$1,000 and go and keep the real fans outside.
That's the problem with scalping.
Michael: See, I talked to him backstage.
Bill: I was just going to say --
[ Laughter ]
Rita: Well, as an entertainer, as a singer and someone who actually
sings at concerts, you know, we are paid a guarantee against a
percentage of what comes in, of the moneys that come in.
So I find it very much like the airlines that somebody's standing out in
the parking lot and, you know, they're making a killing.
The airline makes a killing, you know, charging people for waiting.
I don't think that should go into my business.
I don't agree with either one of them.
I think it's wrong everywhere.
With the Indians, with the airlines.
[ Laughter ]
And with music.
Bill: But what's wrong with charging people for not planning ahead?
I mean, that's what scalping is, whether it's the airlines or the
You're rewarding the people who thought ahead?
Rita: I think they should be rewarded.
Michael: The people with families, and the home owners and the people
who don't smoke.
[ Laughter ]
Really, it takes advantage of people, such as --
Gerald: He may say that tongue in cheek, but the problem is, if the
scalper had to stand on line and wait to buy the ticket and then sold it
for real money would be one thing.
But I've stood in line before to see Tina Turner recently at Radio City
Music Hall.
I was right in front.
Waited two hours.
Got up there, asked for good seats.
They were all gone.
Hundreds of seats gone.
There was nobody in line in front of me.
The scalpers have their contacts already at Radio City.
They eat up all those good tickets so the real fans can't get them.
And then those are the ones being offered.
That's the problem.
Bill: You're obsessed with Tina Turner, aren't you?
[ Laughter ]
I mean, it's not just the ticket.
You're outside of her home.
Gerald: I follow her to every concert.
Bill: You went through her garbage.
I know the type.
[ Laughter ]
Michael: Isn't this just capitalism?
Isn't this the great system that you like to support?
Bill: I'm saying I don't think there's anything wrong with it either
But I don't understand why the airlines are able to do it.
Michael: And ticket people aren't.
Bill: Or a guy in the stock market.
If you're in the stock market and you buy low and then sell high, you're
a genius.
But if you do it outside of the U2 --
Peter: Well, it's an excellent point.
[ Laughter ]
Gerald: I don't know if it's excellent.
Bill: That is certainly not the answer we want on this show.
Michael: But we're all in agreement.
Peter: He is the only one --
Bill: We quickly have to take a commercial.
We hate agreements.
It's not an excellent point.
[ Applause ]
Announcer: Join us tomorrow when our guests will be -- Bill Bellamy,
Holly Robinson Peete, Bill Press and Maggie Gallagher.
[ Applause ]
Bill: Okay.
Gerald, you wrote this book about the killing of Martin Luther King.
You also wrote "Case Closed," about Kennedy.
And that book's thesis is basically that Oswald was the lone gunman.
Which --
Gerald: Hard to believe, but true.
Bill: I wonder what percentage of people believe that nowadays?
Not very many.
Gerald: There are four people in the country who agree with me.
Bill: Right.
Peter: I believe that Oswald was the Lone Ranger.
[ Laughter ]
Gerald: But that is because the -- Bill, that's because not enough
people have actually read the book.
I mean, I was startled when I did the investigation to find out.
I know you think I must be joking to think that Oswald could do it
But in fact, believe it or not, he did.
Michael: I think it was, like, a conspiracy of all the ex-girlfriends.
[ Laughter ]
You know?
Kind of a "First Wives Club" thing, you know?
[ Applause ]
Bill: That's interesting.
That is very -- you mean Kennedy's ex-girlfriends?
Michael: Yes, correct.
They just all got together one night, said, "That's it, man.
This guy's gotta go."
Rita: Do you think they hired Oswald or did they do it themselves?
Michael: No, but they hired Oswald to do it.

Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher
Executive Producers
Scott Carter
Bill Maher
Nancy Geller
Senior Producer
Douglas M. Wilson
Supervising Producer
Kevin E. Hamburger
Created By
Bill Maher
Directed By
Michael Dimich
Writing Supervised By
Chris Kelly
K.P. Anderson
Mark Bruiser
Bill Kelley
Bill Maher
Billy Martin
Jerry Nachman
Ned Rice
Cliff Schoenberg
Danny Vermont
Scott Carter
Executive in Charge of Production
John Fisher
Executive Producers
Brad Grey
Bernie Brillstein
Marc Gurvitz

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